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Masculine Wiles VI
rogue_linguist
          Despite this insight into the innocently trusting nature of the other characters of the play, Iago shows lapses in his grasp on the human psyche, as his miscalculation of Emilia's shrewdness and integrity illustrates. His blindness to her own reasoning abilities becomes clear when she expresses suspicion over the allegations of Desdemona's infidelity. As Desdemona grieves over Othello's accusation of her affair with Cassio, Emilia suggests,
                                                                        I will be hanged if some eternal villain,
                                                                        Some busy and insinuating rogue,
                                                                        Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office,
                                                                        Have not devised this slander; I'll be hanged else. (IV.ii.130-3)
Iago, however, dismisses this consideration with sudden angst: "Fie, there is no such a man! It is impossible," and later, when Othello remarks that Iago has confirmed his belief in Desdemona's and Cassio's affair, Emilia exclaims, "Now / I think upon't, I think I smelled a villainy-- / I thought so then" (IV.ii.134, V.ii.88-90). The uncanny accuracy of Emilia's suspicion (and her prescience about her own demise) demonstrates her own understanding of the selfish human motives underlying a possible conspiracy against Desdemona, Othello, and Cassio--specifically, the avarice she later discovers in her own husband. Conversely, Iago shows the anxiety of the arrogant schemer over being discovered as well as resentment over being outwitted by somebody he considers a "foolish wife" (III.iii.307). Emilia truly turns the tables on her husband when she reveals to Othello, Montano, and Gratiano that she gave Iago Desdemona's handkerchief, thus implicating him (and perhaps herself to the extent that she has erred unknowingly) in the plot that she has earlier suspected: she demands of her listeners, "Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak: / 'Tis proper I obey him, but not now. / Perchance, Iago, I will ne'er go home," eventually revealing, "No, alas, I found [the handkerchief], / And did give't my husband" (V.ii.193-5, V.ii.229-30). Rather than Emilia, who exudes an almost noble integrity and truthfulness in her rebellion against her husband's authority, it is Iago who risks retribution and incurs ignominy for his deceit; it is he--the misogynist--who suffers disgrace for his "wiles". The ultimate disaster which visits the vice-ridden Iago, especially in contract with the virtuous Emilia, further illustrates Shakespeare's conception of masculine subterfuge and its failures.


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