Trust and Distrust in Othello

This post is responding to a question that was posed in class, about why Othello was so willing to believe Iago.

Othello supposedly loves Desdemona, so why is he so quick to believe Iago’s accusations about her infidelity? Prior to his accusations, Iago establishes a deep sense of trust with Othello. He is then able to use that trust to destroy Othello’s marriage, by playing on internalized sexism and distrust of women.

“Iago: I hope you will consider what is spoke

Comes from my love. But I do see you’re moved.

I am to pray you not to strain my speech

To grosser issues nor to larger reach

Than to suspicion” (133). 

Iago begins by reminding Othello his intervention comes from a place of love. This sets Othello up to believe Iago only has and only will have his best interest in heart. He presents his (maybe) platonic, masculine love as more powerful than Desdemona’s romantic love. Because of cultural assumptions about women at the time, Iago effectively erodes Othello’s faith in his wife while simultaneously making himself out to be the honest one. Othello is now more inclined to listen to and believe Iago over Desdemona, regardless of who’s telling the truth.

“IAGO …But let her live.

OTHELLO Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her, damn her!

Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw

To furnish me with some swift means of death

For the fair devil” (151).

Othello instantly turns on his wife and begins demonizing her. His insults are short yet aggressive, calling her “lewd minx” and “fair devil.” On top of this, he’s already ready to kill her without having heard her side of the story. I think this shows that he never really cared what her side was, perhaps even in smaller disputes. All Othello cared about; the only value Desdemona provided to him was her love, both physical and emotional. As soon as that is threatened in the eyes of Othello, any safety she’s granted goes away. 

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5 thoughts on “Trust and Distrust in Othello

  1. Why Othello was so quick to trust Iago more than Desdemona, I think it was because this was one of those plays where a person will trust his friends and colleagues more than his wife. I think that happens sometimes in real life when there is a big fight or argument or whatever. But I get what you are saying about Othello trusting Iago more than Desdemona. I still can’t believe how Iago got Othello to trust him. This was a good and interesting post to read.

  2. This is a great blog post because honestly why did Othello believe Iago. I like the part where you talk about how Iago’s platonic Masculine love might be stronger than Desdemona’s romantic love. This play plays on injustices like sexism, which you mention. Women aren’t to be trusted and Iago tricks Othello into believing that women are liars and men are the trustworthy type and women’s opinions don’t mean a thing. Great job!!

  3. I wondered why was Othello so quick to trust Iago instead of Desdemona. he proclaimed to be so in love so why so quick to switch up. Iago tricks him with words and lies and Othello gets wrapped up in the web pushing how strong the love for Desdemona to the back of his brain. great post!

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