Iago’s Two Cents

Depending on a wide variety of factors, the average person will meet anywhere from 10,000 to 200,000 people in their lifetime. That number significantly decreases if you take into account only those who know more about you than just your name. The number is smaller yet when it comes down to meaningful relationships between two people. According to a fairly recent study, the human brain is capable of sustaining only 150 stable relationships at any given time. I guess that says something about your “friends” on all of those social networking sites, huh?

What stands out to me the most is the depth of human relationships. Between two people involved in a relationship, what factors determine the strength of said relationship? Trust? Honesty? Communication? Let’s say Person A and Person B are very close. They share all of their secrets and tell each other anything and everything they have in mind. But what if Person A uses the words “all” and “anything” loosely? Person B has immense trust in Person A because he believes in the friend that Person A appears to be. Beyond their outer appearance, however, Person A could be harboring negative feelings toward Person B.

There are many, many types of people on this planet, so there are some who pretend, lie, and keep secrets. That doesn’t go to say that there aren’t people who are truly and sincerely honest, but we’ve all had that one friend who turned out to be…..not a friend.

In lines 43-56 of Act 1 Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago, the evil villain, sums up this idea on human relationships.

“O sir, content you.
I follow him to serve my turn upon him.
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave
That (doting on his own obsequious bondage)
Wears out his time much like his master’s ass
For naught but provender, and when he’s old, cashiered.
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are
Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty,
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves
And, throwing but shows of service on their lords,
Do well thrive by them. And when they have lined their coats,
Do themselves homage. These fellows have some soul”
Iago believes that there are two types of servants – those who wholeheartedly serve their masters, and those who pretend to serve their masters while secretly plotting one-man coups d’etat. As you can see, Iago’s thought parallels my friendship analogy. In both cases there are truth and deceit.
Now the question is: How can we distinguish the two? Or, should this uncertainty be regarded as a part of life and left alone?
I’m not so sure.
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