The Theme of Betrayal in Othello

Published: 2023-01-04
The Theme of Betrayal in Othello
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Research Analysis World Behavior Civil rights
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1577 words
14 min read

Othello is a Hollywood soap opera that present several themes such as deception, love, betrayal, murder, and jealousy. The story is about Othello, who is a Moorish general and works in the Venetian army. It also describes Desdemona who is the wife to Othello and the daughter of Senator Brabantio. As the story unfolds, two characters, Rodrigo and Iago become Othello's greatest enemies. Principally, Rodrigo is Othello's rival who is also in love with his wife while Iago is Othello's employee who envies him for promoting Cassio instead of him. Principally, the play revolves around the theme betrayal, and therefore there is a need to examine how different characters support this theme. Intuitively, betrayal is the dominant theme in Othello that affects characters in positive and negative ways.

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The actions of Othello betray many characters in the play. Othello is the main character of Shakespeare's classic play, and the drama revolves around him. Othello's decision to promote Cassio with little experience to the post of lieutenant is behind Iago's hatred towards him. According to Shakespeare, Othello exercised betrayal by promoting Cassio at his expense. It is evident during the conversation between Iago and Rodrigo where Iago said, "Despite the three great men in the city, Othello chose Cassio." He went further to claim that, "there are others/who putting on a good show of duty are looking put their interest" (50-52). Therefore, Iago felt aggrieved and decided to plot a revenge scheme that led to betrayal. Othello also betrayed his wife Desdemona by doubting her faithfulness. When Othello was prompted by false allegation regarding Desdemona's alleged sexual relationship with Cassio, he believed without investigating the claims. He went further to kill his wife and later kill himself. Unknowingly, it was all Iago's revenge scheme. Othello also betrayed Brabantio, who is the father of his wife, Desdemona. Othello decided to marry Desdemona without the approval of his father in law. He betrayed the trust and the relationship that should exist between a son in law and a father in law. Besides, he did very little to amend their differences after their marriage. On the same point, the decision to kill Desdemona is an act of betrayal to Brabantio. It is because after marrying her daughter without his consent, Othello went further to kill her daughter out of jealousy (Shakespeare 28).

Iago supports the theme of betrayal by deceiving almost everyone in the play. Iago is the villain in the story as well as Othello's ensign. He is one of the senior and influential members of Othello's troop. However, his hatred towards Othello is stronger than anything else that prompted him to exercise his betrayal. The genesis of his betrayal was Othello's decision to promote Cassio to the position of lieutenant. Iago who is an experienced solder believed that the lieutenant post was reserved to him. However, he felt let down and started to plan revenge schemes against Othello. Iago was ready to do everything possible to make Othello to pay for the decision of overlooking him for the post of lieutenant (Shakespeare 3).

Iago supported the theme of betrayal by deceiving Othello and other characters in very many ways. First, he pretended to be Othello's friend and close confidant. Through their friendship, he convinced Othello that his wife Desdemona was cheating on him with Cassio. The betrayal resulted in the death of both Othello as well as Desdemona. Iago also betrayed Othello by claiming that Othello had a sexual relationship with Emilia. Interestingly, Emilia was Iago's wife but did not care about their relationship by making a baseless claim of his wife cheating on him with Othello. Through these claims, Iago betrayed not only Othello but also his wife, Emilia. Besides, Iago also betrayed his troops by plotting to get rid of Cassio, who was chosen by Othello as their lieutenant. Military always require total commitments and loyalty to the superiors. However, Iago did not exercise either of them because he despised Cassio and plotted a scheme that brought the downfall of Othello (Shakespeare 5). Similarly, Iago also betrayed his unlikely ally, Rodrigo. Rodrigo is in love with Othello's wife, Desdemona. He did not like the fact that Othello managed to marry Desdemona instead of him. Consequently, he was out to do anything possible to break the marriage and marry Desdemona. As a result, Rodrigo decided to give all his money to Iago to help him win back Desdemona. Instead of Iago helping him in his quest of winning back Desdemona, Iago betrayed Rodrigo by using the money to himself. Therefore, Iago just used Rodrigo as a tool for seeking revenge on Othello. After succeeding in his mission, Iago stubbed Rodrigo without hesitation. Thus, Iago betrayed the trust that Rodrigo had in him to the extent of even killing him in the process (Shakespeare 48).

The author used Cassio to propagate the theme of betrayal. He is on the receiving end of Iago's betrayals schemes. He is very innocent because he was only chosen by Othello to become the new lieutenant. Casio is the young soldier promoted to the post of lieutenant by Othello. Iago betrayed him when he claimed that he has a sexual relationship with Othello's wife. Moreover, Iago also betrayed him when he gave him more than enough alcoholic drinks and misbehaved. Cassio is brilliant and capitalizes on the weakness of others to execute his betrayal scheme. No wonder Shakespeare said before giving Cassio excess alcohol that, "if I can get him to drink just one more cup/on top of what he has drunk tonight he will be quarrelsome and disagreeable as my young lady's dog" (43-46). Iago knew that Cassio was young and was vulnerable to misbehaviour when drunk. Therefore, he took advantage of this by giving Cassio excess alcohol. Before Cassio misbehaving from drinking excess alcohol, Iago pretended to be his friend. It implies that apart from Iago betraying his senior, he also betrayed their friendship. Therefore, the author used Cassio to propagate the theme of betrayal.

Desdemona supports the theme of betrayal in the play by marrying Othello against her father. Despite used by the author as a recipient of the theme of betrayal, she also betrayed other characters. Desdemona is the wife to Othello and the daughter to Senator Brabantio. She married Othello against the wishes of his father and became a loyal wife who valued her marriage. Most notably, her decision to marry Othello against the wishes of his father is an act of betrayal. Every father always wished to have a choice in whom to marry his daughters. However, Desdemona denied his father this wish. Moreover, Desdemona got her equal share of betrayal from other characters such as his father Brabantio, his husband Othello, Rodrigo, as well as Iago (Shakespeare 34).

The refusal of his father Brabantio to acknowledge her marriage with Othello is an act of betrayal. In most of the cases, women want to make their own choice regarding their spouses. Moreover, women also want the parents to respect their choice of a husband. However, her father failed to honour and respect her choice. Consequently, it surmounts to betrayal. Furthermore, Desdemona felt betrayed by Rodrigo. Rodrigo failed to respect her marriage to Othello. Rodrigo went as far as financing Iago with all of his money to destroy her marriage. Rodrigo selfishness of perceived love for her made him betray Desdemona. Additionally, Desdemona was betrayed from an unlikely source. Her husband questioned her commitment and faithfulness to their marriage by believing that she had a sexual relationship with Cassio. The betrayal led to her husband killing her and the eventual suicide of her husband. Moreover, Iago also betrayed Desdemona by telling lies to her husband that she is unfaithful (Shakespeare 49).


In conclusion, most plays by Shakespeare comprised of characters who commit acts of betrayal including Othello. Reportedly, in the history of drams and plays where politics together with the ambition that accompanies the characters involved, the theme of betrayal is most common. The history dramas are about the rules and powerful individuals around them, usually persons with their personal ambitions ready to support someone in a significant act of betrayal such as regicide to develop their professions. Undoubtedly, in most of these plays, the characters are working extremely hard to dethrone monarchs and ready to bear the consequences of their actions. Just like other plays by Shakespeare, the play Othello presents several themes. However, the theme that stands out is that of betrayal. Through characters, the author has successfully presented the theme of betrayal in the play. Such characters include Othello, Desdemona, Iago, Rodrigo, Brabantio, Emilia, and Cassio. The characters either betray others or are being betrayed. Therefore, by using the theme of betrayal, the author has managed to introduce other characters and develop the plot of the play. It means that through the theme of betrayal, readers can know other characters and their behaviors. Moreover, the play is also able to advance from one scene to another.Given that people hate, love and aspire, they also deceive and betray one other. Principally, the magnitude of suffering and pain caused by betrayal makes Othello more powerful. Further, the relationship that exists amongst characters makes the play unique. The play demonstrates a close relationship amongst characters, and this makes it difficult for the reader to point out the actor who has a significant contribution to the theme of betrayal in the play.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice, 1630.

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