by Hany Kim
Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, shows how love and jealousy can be deadly when it put together. One of the most important characters in this book is Michael Cassio. Cassio’s views on reputation and of himself leads to him being used by Iago to drive his plan forward. Cassio is too trusting of Iago, which leads to the tragedy that is the collateral damage of the plan. It is understood that the people back at Venice generally seem to take a liking to Cassio, especially the Duke of Venice and the senators, since Cassio is appointed the governor of Cyprus at the end of the play. He has his issues with alcohol and his many relationships with multiple women not his wife back home. Despite his flaws, he is still a loyal and talented soldier as shown as he reveres his general, Othello.
Cassio is an attractive and good looking Florentine, referred to as a “proper man” (I.iii.435) by Iago in the first act of the play. Despite his young age and the fact that he has no real field experience, Cassio seems to be a responsible, brave, and well-disciplined soldier enough to be handpicked by Othello, a revered general in Venice and abroad, as a lieutenant. He also appears to have a good sense of virtue as he laments the loss of his reputation after he stabs Roderigo and loses his lieutenancy when Iago gets him drunk: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! / Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial“ (II.iii.280-283). He is saying that without a good reputation, you will be infamous, known but not in a good way, or worse: not being known or remembered at all. Cassio is also a loyal soldier who respects and praises his general Othello is “so good a commander” (II.iii.297). Even when Othello fired Cassio, he still reveres his former general, as Cassio has so much respect for Othello. In addition, the loyalty and trust appear to be reciprocal since Othello entrusts his love letters between Desdemona and himself during their brief courtship to Cassio. In fact, his loyalty, ability, and responsibility are so well-known that the senators and the Duke in Venice decide to make Cassio a new governor in place of Othello.
However, while he is generally a good soldier, he has his weaknesses. First, with his “handsome, young” face, and “all those requisites…/ that folly and green minds look after” (II.i.267-269), he has issues regarding women despite the fact that he is “almost damned in a fair wife”(II.i.22) back home. Despite the fact that he is in a marriage, he finds pleasure in other women like Bianca, a prostitute. Indeed, he is so intimate with Bianca that she is heartbroken to find out that he does not plan on marrying her in the end. Iago uses this flaw to use this flaw against Othello by convincing him that Cassio is indeed sleeping with Desdemona. Secondly, Cassio has a problem with alcohol in that he has low tolerance for alcohol: “I [Cassio] have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking” (II.iii.34-35). He does not drink more than a glass of wine probably mixed with water as a rule; however, when he does at Iago’s command, he loses his ability to think properly as seen when he get drunk by Iago’s manipulation and attacks Roderigo and Montana.
Cassio is an important character in Othello because he is a key part in Iago’s plan to destroy the lives of Desdemona and Othello. When Cassio becomes Othello’s lieutenant instead of Iago even when “the three great ones of the city, in personal suit to make [Iago] is [Othello’s] lieutenant”(1.i.9-10), believing that he has been cheated, Iago begins to hate Cassio. An evil genius beyond comparison, Iago uses Cassio’s good qualities such as his handsome face and trusting personality as well as his bad qualities such as his alcohol and women problems to go through with his plan.