How Does Iago Manipulate Roderigo?

Updated 3 April, 2024
Iago manipulates Roderigo, his friend, two times in the play. He first uses Roderigo to stir up Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, into condemning Othello to the Duke of Venice and his council of senators. The second time Iago manipulates his friend, Roderigo, by using his deep yearning for Desdemona against him. Iago uses Roderigo’s stubbornness to control and ultimately betray him.
Detailed answer:

In Shakespeare’s play Othello, Roderigo may seem like a minor character, but in actuality he plays an integral role in driving the overall plot of the play and character development of the antagonist, Iago. Roderigo, desperate to win the love of Desdemona, recruits Iago to help him go about it, but in doing so, he lets his guard down and Iago takes advantage of his wealth. Roderigo’s actions in the play prove that without power, jealousy makes one susceptible to being used when one thinks one is achieving a goal. Shakespeare introduces Roderigo to the audience as a man who is already heavily reliant on Iago. Roderigo says “never tell me; I take it much unkindly that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this”. Roderigo is upset that his friend, Iago, has not been keeping him up to date on what’s happening in Desdemona’s life. Roderigo acknowledges the control Iago has over his money “as if the strings were thine,” indicating an attitude of sass and annoyance with the fact. This foreshadows Roderigo’s downfall, as he is aware of Iago’s dishonesty but does not act on it. Additionally, Roderigo’s jealousy blinds him to Iago’s inner motivations. Roderigo is one of the only characters throughout the play that is aware of Iago’s hatred for Othello. Due to his unintelligent nature, Roderigo fails to pick up on how Iago is using him because they both share a common goal: creating a disturbance in Othello’s timeline. Although Roderigo only wants to marry Othello's betrothed while Iago wants to see Othello destroyed as a man, he unwittingly contributes to Iago’s sinister plan because Roderigo believes he will eventually get what he desires. As the play continues, Roderigo becomes wise to Iago’s deception, and tells him the advice Iago has been giving him isn’t actually useful, and is the exact opposite of what he should be doing. Iago, unfinished in carrying out his plan, asks Roderigo to hear him out but he replies “Faith, I have heard too much; for your words and performances are no kin together”. Here, Roderigo finally sees Iago for what he really is and calls him out for it. Iago’s actions and promises do not comply with one another, and Roderigo has had enough. Unfortunately, Iago is able to convince him to trust him once more, and marks Roderigo as a red flag in Iago’s plans. This ultimately leads to his unjust demise by Iago’s hand. Roderigo’s jealousy of Othello corrupts his sense of self, allowing him to be controlled by the evil Iago. He never wins Desdemona’s love, and wastes his time (and eventually his life) listening to Iago and following his plans like a puppet.

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