Act 5 of Othello, by William Shakespeare, correctly portrays revenge and how it can backfire, both in the Renaissance period and today. The failure of Iago’s plan is the age old story of how well thought plans can backfire, both today and in the past. Othello’s killing of his wife, later to find his wife was truly innocent, was another representation of the failure of revenge. Revenge can easily backfire with even the best of plans, and Shakespeare’s Othello demonstrates this through Iago and Othello’s failures.
William Shakespeare’s Othello correctly portrays the idea of how revenge can backfire, because of Iago’s failure to successfully remove Cassio from his position.
Iago, having wanted to orchestrate a situation in which Cassio is fired and Iago retained Cassio’s position, set up a situation in which Cassio and Roderigo fought, with the hopes of having one kill the other. Iago speaks to himself, “Now, whether he kill Cassio, or Cassio kill him, or each do kill the other, every way makes my gain,” (Shakespeare 5.1.13-15). In the event that Cassio dies, he will be praised by Roderigo and receive Cassio’s position. If Roderigo dies, Cassio will be fired and he could receive Cassio’s position. However, when Roderigo dies and Cassio is wounded, he is found that he helped orchestrate Roderigo and Desdemona’s murders, as well as Cassio’s attempted murder, and is carried off to jail.
However, the revenge that Iago seeked for Othello selecting Cassio instead of him did come. Othello, ashamed of killing Desdemona, killed himself over it. “I kissed thee ere I killed the. No way but this, killing myself to die upon a kiss,” (Shakespeare 5.2.420-421). Othello’s love for Desdemona turned into jealousy with rumors of Cassio, and when it is revealed she never cheated and Iago was lying, he dies with his wife, for he feels there is no way to go on. Iago’s revenge does in fact successfully trick Othello into killing his wife and himself, so Iago did not totally fail.
Although, while it might be said that Iago did not fail in attaining revenge against Othello for choosing Cassio as lieutenant instead of him, and Othello did in fact kill himself and his wife because of that, Cassio did not quite receive revenge. Cassio is in fact promoted, taking Othello’s spot in rule over Cyprus, and the only cost is a severed leg. At first, Cassio was fired, but he then regained a position even higher than he started with, all due to Iago’s attempt on revenge. Had Iago not intervened, he likely would not have caused Cassio’s promotion or anybody’s death, and all would have gone well.
Act 5 of Shakespeare’s Othello correctly portrays the idea of revenge and how it can backfire, showing Iago and how he managed to cause three deaths, and get carried off to jail himself.