William Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, is a play centred on the theme of deception. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses this theme to develop the plot and to bring about the downfall of the title character. This is achieved principally through the dialogue of the character Iago in a number of key scenes, and its effect on both minor and major characters. The theme develops throughout the play in an ever-expanding web of lies that affects every character. .
The opening scene of the play immediately submerges the audience in deception via Iago's speech. Iago is in conversation with the character Roderigo, who we later learn is being deceived by Iago. Iago is vowing that he follows his lord, Othello, not out of service, rather in the search for revenge. He actually states:.
" I follow him to serve my turn upon him.".
This statement, in Act I, Scene 1 no less, clearly sets the stage for a play of deception and backstabbing. Iago proceeds to refute any allegiance to Othello for the next 25 lines! This speech is concluded with the line "I am not what I am." By having this in the very first scene, Shakespeare acknowledges to the audience that deception will be a key theme in the play and will recur frequently.
The full extent of the deception in the first scene is not revealed until Act I, Scene 3, when Iago reveals the truth in his soliloquy. Iago goes into detail on how he is in fact deceiving Roderigo into giving him money to by presents for Desdemona, a service Iago had not done and never intended to do. He goes on to say that:.
"Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;.
For I mine own knowledge should profane .
If I would time expend with such a snipe .
But for my sport and profit.".
Iago openly admits that he has been deceiving Roderigo for money and for entertainment. This gives the first scene greater meaning whilst simultaneously exposing Iago as a true fraud to the audience, thus furthering the theme of deception.