"Othello" and use of persuasive language

Essay by juboozi August 2006

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In Shakespeare's "Othello" persuasive language is used predominantly throughout the text, mainly by the character Iago. Iago is a very different character from all the others in the play. It is Iago's talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him both a powerful and compelling figure. Through his persuasive and manipulative nature he seems to be a friend to all. Iago anticipates and manipulates all the other characters in the play so skilfully that they seem to be acting simultaneously of their own free will and as Iago's puppets. The most predominant persuasive techniques used by Iago are: appealing to humour, repetition, appealing to emotions and the timing of revelation of information.

One predominant technique used by Iago to manipulate other characters is by appealing to humour. This is mostly evident when Iago persuades Cassio to become intoxicated using songs.

"And let me the cannikin clink, clink..." (2, 3, 60)

This comical song about drinking appeals to Cassio's sense of humour encouraging him to drink more. Thus, Iago is able to persuade Cassio through humour.

The scenes with Iago and the foolish Roderigo are also quite humorous. These scenes act as a showcase of Iago's manipulative abilities. He seems almost to wink at the audience as he revels in his own skill. Iago uses this humour to persuade the audience. By appealing to the audience's humour they become entertained and find themselves on Iago's side when he is with Roderigo.

One particular scene that Iago successfully manipulates Roderigo is when he is convincing him to give him money in return for his assistance with Desdemona. By using Desdemona as a tool of Roderigo's love he appeals to Roderigo's emotions. He convinces Roderigo through the use of repetition.