Home » William Shakespeare’s “Othello” – False Friendship

William Shakespeare’s “Othello” – False Friendship

A friendship is not always what it is made out to be. Sometimes, the perceived level of security a friendship gives is false. This ‘false friendship’ is portrayed explicitly in William Shakespeare’s “Othello. ” Superficially, Roderigo and Iago are friends. In reality, Iago is using Roderigo to seek revenge on Othello and they are in fact, not friends. Iago’s jealousy of power and love consumes him into using his apparent friend for his own personal gain. In these relationships, there is always a stronger person who uses a weaker person’s need for a friend, to achieve their desired goals.

It is evident just by looking at the amount of lines Iago has, that he is much stronger, where Roderigo only listens, and follows the shepherd. By Act II, Scene iii, it is evident that Roderigo is inferior to Iago because he latches onto Iago, who has a much stronger character. It is also evident that their friendship is false. He does not realize that he is being used for Iago’s personal gain. Roderigo admits he is weaker than everyone and that he has lost all patience and motivation to go on: “not like a hound that hunts…almost spent” (II, iii, 363-5).

Iago immediately turns Roderigo around by saying he is poor because he has no “patience” (II, iii, 370). Roderigo feels as if he is being used but Iago always talks him into seeing a just cause for his actions: “And thou by that small hurt…first will first be ripe” (II, iii, 375-7). Iago is using Roderigo’s love for Desdemona to keep him motivated. He uses food imagery to say that soon Roderigo’s hunger for love will be fulfilled soon, and he only needs to take hold of patience.

He says that now that Cassio is out of the way, Roderigo has a straight line to get to Desdemona. But what Iago really wants is for Cassio to be removed of his rank and Iago can take his place and gain power, then becoming closer to separating Othello and Desdemona: “Two things are to be done…coldness and delay” (II, iii, 382-8). Without Iago, Roderigo is in fact stronger. Alone, he begins to walk down the path towards the truth and loses strength to go on. But Iago always leads him off into a direction away from what is known by all but Roderigo.

I have been tonight exceedingly well cudgeled” (II, iii, 365-366): not only has Roderigo been physically beaten, but also he is weakened every time he is turned around and lost on his way to the truth. Throughout the first act, hints of a false friendship appear, some more clearly than others. In the opening lines, Roderigo states that Iago controls him: “That thou, Iago…were thine,” (I, I, 2-3). He says that Iago has his money, and is controlled by strings, as if he were a puppet. But Iago easily sways Roderigo’s view of their friendship.

He openly lies to Roderigo, telling him he is speaking nonsense: “If I did…abhor me” (I, I, 3-4). Once he knows Roderigo will do anything for him, Iago then explains his intentions to crush Othello. It is ironic that Iago says he would never dream of controlling his buddy, and goes on to coerce Roderigo into working with him against the Moor. Later in the act, Roderigo gets discouraged and depressed: “I will incontinently drown myself” (I, iii, 300). It takes skillful planning on Iago’s part to keep Roderigo in his plans.

A torn friend approaches him, and only the perfect wording will give Roderigo strength again. “Put money in thy purse” (I, iii, 335): the extended metaphor of money is brought up again, meaning patience and strength. Iago repeats at least six times that Roderigo needs to make money, or take heed of patience and strength. “Wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue? ” (I, iii, 358-9): Roderigo is already swayed back into Iago’s plan, and all he wants is Iago’s word, which is absolutely worthless.

I’ll sell…sport and profit” (I, iii, 373-377): Roderigo has received enough strength from his friend’s words to equal the value of his land. But at the same time, he has given up all of his land to Iago. Because of this, Iago admits for the first time his true intentions for keeping Roderigo as a friend. He knows he controls Roderigo, and openly states he is using him for his own profit. At this moment, the friendship that had been seen throughout the play crumbles, and poor Roderigo is last to know. It is sad, because this idea of a false friendship appears commonly in everyone’s life.

Whether in war, in politics, or simple high school kids, the weak suffer, and the strong get their desired indulgences by stomping all over their apparent friends. In literature, the false friendship is merely a takeoff of mistaken identity, where the weaker man mistakes a stronger person as a friend, when he is far from it. Roderigo only wants to have love, not the love Iago talks about, but true love. He is a moral man, and that is why he is broken by Iago. Why must the immoral be the ones who rise above?

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