Letter To Othello
You are the leader of men, the valiant moor, the Venetian general who is entrusted to lead his men in the fight against the Turks, and yet you let your emotions control your actions. If I may speak freely, I would like to tell you about the literary work of Florentine, named Niccolo Machiavelli. In his book, The Prince, he discusses ways in which a man can gain power and how he can keep said power. One of Machiavelli’s best-known philosophies is that a ruler, such a yourself, should be feared, not loved. In fact, he says that men love as they please, but fear when the prince please. (Machiavelli 56). Machiavelli also cautions that a ruler should always escape being hated(54); he explains that once a prince becomes hated, his subjects no longer fear the consequences of their actions. Sadly, some of those in your court already hate you. Iago, in a conversation with Roderigo, openly says he hates the Moor (Shakespeare I.iii.23).
Furthermore, you must know the two ways of fighting: by law and by force (Machiavelli 56). Machiavelli explains that the two ways of fighting are accompanied by two animals a prince should embody: the fox, which represents law, and the lion which represents force (56). You, dearest Othello, behave more like a lion. The Lion is able to frighten off wolves (Machiavelli 57), while the fox can recognize the traps (Machiavelli 57). Machiavelli would say that simply [acting] like a lion [is] stupid (57). If you wish to keep your power, you must learn who to do both.
By the same token, those who you take advice from can determine your ability to keep your power. The Florentine scholar explains that: when you see a minster thinking more of himself than of you, and seeking his own profit in everything he does, such a one will never be a good minister, you will never be able to trust him. (Machiavelli 75) Iago is one of these minister; he has lied and manipulated you into believing Desdemona is anything but loyal.
The person in your court who best embodies most, if not all, of Machiavelli’s principles is Iago. He is able to act like a fox , by persuading you to believe that your wife is unfaithful, he chooses to delegate.the enactment of unpopular measures (Machiavelli 61) to Roderigo, thus keeping his hands clean, and most important of all he seems to be virtuous in the eyes of the court.
From the beginning, Iago has been able to disguise his true motive under a mask of concern for you. He confesses to Roderigo that he do[es] hate [you] yet [he] must show out a flag and sign of love (Shakespeare I.i.8).
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