The idea of Appearance vs Reality is shown in the play Othello by the character of Iago. No other character in the play is so deceptive as Iago. The difference between reality and its face is elaborately meditated through Iago. Iago says, “I am not what I am.”
It foreshadows his nature throughout the play. It is not only him but all of us who are never the way we are seen as. Due to this reason, this theme remains one of the most dominant and relatable themes in the play.
When asked by Roderigo, Iago reveals to him about the reality behind his seeming loyalty to Othello. He says, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” Very soon, we come to realise that he is double-faced even with Roderigo. In one of his soliloquy, he ponders upon his own “double knavery.”
With the advancing of the plot, one sees that Iago is only honest to himself because he seems to have the complete awareness of his treacherous self. After Roderigo, he arrives at Cassio and realises his use.
In a masterful style, he deceives him as someone who truly cares about him when actually he is the one who designed Cassio’s fall in public and suggested his failure to Othello.
Iago isn’t even true to his own wife Emilia who is truly devoted to him. He appears as someone who is sincere at work. He appears so well to her that she is unable to trace the evil in him before the final uncovering of his true self in the end.
Only because of this cunning capacity to hide his reality, he is able to get the handkerchief of Desdemona from Emilia without making her doubt his motive,
Othello is of a noble nature who tends to believe that others are noble too. Iago knows this very well. He says, “The Moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will as tenderly be led by th’ nose as asses are.”
He exploits such knowledge of individuals. His superior acting allows him to remain objective with people who are so close to him and pursue his own course of actions.
While talking to Othello about Cassio, in a very ironic manner he says, “men should be what they seem, or those that be not, would they might seem none!”
It actually reminds us of Iago’s own deceptive self. The play advances into the tragedy due to this evil difference between appearance and reality.