Othello Summary Response Outline
Shakespeare’s Othello demonstrates how jealousy and a lust for revenge can lead a person to manipulate a friend.
The play begins with Iago and Roderigo swearing their hatred of the Moor, who has replaced Iago with Cassio as Othello’s right hand man, and stolen Desdemona from Roderigo despite his attempts to woo her. Using Brabantio’s prejudice against Othello and Desdemona, Iago and Roderigo try to manipulate him into landing the Moor and his newly wed in trouble, but to no avail. Othello and Desdemona head to Cyprus to fight back against the Turk army. Iago tricks Roderigo into selling all his land for money, and follow Desdemona to Cyprus. In this way, Shakespeare lets readers catch a glimpse into the mind of twisted Iago, a man who is not afraid to twist his friend Roderigo and his foes Brabantio and Othello alike to meet his own ends.
- Topic sentence: In Shakespeare’s Othello, Shakespeare correctly portrays the idea that Iago is manipulating Roderigo.
- Pick a Side
- Claim 1: Roderigo is manipulated into selling all of his land and following Desdemona to Cyprus.
Set-up: Roderigo is told by Iago to put money in his purse (sell all his property) and follow Desdemona and Othello to Cyprus. Roderigo, agreeing to Iago’s plan, leaves to go sell all of his land. As soon Roderigo leaves, Iago mutters to himself,
Evidence: Lead-in “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse. For mine own gained knowledge should profane if I would time expand with such a snipe but for my sport and profit..” (Shakespeare, 1.3, 426-429)
Explanation of quotation to prove claim: Iago, thus gloating to himself, reveals that he plans to use Roderigo for money and for getting his own revenge against Othello. He makes it clear to the audience that he has no friendly feelings towards Roderigo, and that he thinks Roderigo is nothing but a means to an end - and a rather idiotic one at that. Roderigo has no idea that Iago is using him; instead, he believes that Iago is trying to help him win over Desdemona.
- Counterclaim 1: However, Iago does show some concern for Roderigo, and prevents him from trying to take his own life.
- Set-up Iago, alarmed by his friend’s suicidal lamentings, intercedes and cries,
- Evidence: Lead-in “O, villainous! I have looked upon this world for four times seven years, and since I could distinguish a benefit and an injury, I never found a man that knew how to love himself.” (Shakespeare, 1.3,353-355)
- Explanation of quotation to prove counterclaim: Iago comes to his friend’s rescue and tries to persuade his friend from drowning himself. He cheers Roderigo up by theorizing that Desdemona only loves Othello for his body, and that soon enough she will grow tired of it and long to have Roderigo instead. If he follows the newly wed couple to Cyprus, reasons Iago, Roderigo would be sure to capture the fair Desdemona for himself.
- What are the strengths/ flaws of this argument?
- Some may say that Iago’s concern for Roderigo is genuine. While readers cannot deny that rather than letting Roderigo drown himself, Iago tried to talk him out of it, Iago is also being very manipulative and is working for many of his own interior motives as well. He mocks Roderigo’s pains over Desdemona, convincing him it is only a temporary feeling. Instead of simply killing himself, Iago persuades him to sell all of his land and follow Desdemona and Othello to Cyprus. Iago does not show any concern over the fact that his friend is suicidal, but rather is disdainful, saying, “If thou dost, I shall never love thee after. Why, thou silly gentleman!” (Shakespeare, I.3, 348-349). A person who is concerned about the welfare of his friend would not mock him; he would try and comfort him. Iago is only using Roderigo in order to kill Othello; it doesn’t matter to him whether he lives or dies in the end.
- Concluding sentence: restate main idea
Shakespeare’s Othello is a powerful example of how Iago has been pushed into manipulating his own friend Roderigo in order to have his revenge against Othello.