‘The devil himself’, an accusation against Iago is one of great complexity. Iago refers to the devil several times throughout the first two acts both directly and indirectly. However, is he referring to himself at the same time? I feel that Iago is far more complex than to simply be referred to as the devil. However it is true that he may have many devilish characteristics, for example, he cares about only one person, which is himself. He does not care who he hurts on the way to what he wants. Iago can easily manipulate people’s feelings. He manages to twist minds, wreck marriages and cast jealousy whilst no one thinks for a minute that he may be ‘hiding behind a mask’ as he lives through and innocent face. He is thought throughout the first two acts to be a very honest and truthworthy man, this often comes up with great irony as people comment of how honest he is. His word is taken with great confidence and belief.
Nevertheless, a convincing good husband and friend, Iago is really a sinister character who means to cause upheaval. He has cruel intentions. Throughout the first two acts he always keeps the audience up to date to his most recent conspiracy. Most of these conspiracies are brought to light in the night time, which is seen to being devilish in a way as hell would be dark, dismal, eerie and mysterious as might be a night. The play opens this way where Iago and Roderigo try to get Othello and Desdemona’s marriage broken up as revenge on Othello for over looking Iago as lieutenant.
Iago quotes (Ii L59-61) “Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago / In following him, I follow myself / Heaven is my judge, not for love and duty / Bur seeming so for my peculiar end.” Iago is saying that in following Othello as a leader he can also follow his wishes to seek revenge of him by tricking him in to believing that he is his good friend. Iago is also racist, which in those days was not uncommon but in order arouse Desdemona’s father he uses such expressions as (Ii L90)”An old back ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise. Arise / Awake the snorting citizens with the bell / Or else the devil will make a grandshire of you”. Iago is saying how an old black man is messing with Brabanitio’s white daughter. He than goes on to explain that if Brabantio was not to respond than the devil would be making a fool of him.
This also shows how although Iago is a ‘good friend’ he is telling on him and trying to cause trouble. When Desdemona’s father confronts Othello, there is havoc, as he is accused of witchcraft (Iiii L61-4 ) “By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks / For nature so preposterously to err / Being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense / Sans witch craft could not.” However eventually Brabantio results in acceptance and things are back to normal as they are all sent to Cyprus to stop invasion.
As Iago is lest on stage on his own he tells how he thinks his wife has been sleeping with Othello. However this is probably just an excuse to hate Othello. He than again refers to hell (Iiii L385-6 ) “I have’t. it is engendered. Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.” He is saying how the night and hell will make his conspiracy become reality. He also tells how he plans to get rid of both Cassio and Desdemona, get Cassio’s position and get Othello. This shows the selfish side of Iago also wanting Othello all to himself.
In Cyprus Iago is going to spoil things between Othello and Desdemona in spite. Iago then tells Roderigo how Desdemona is in love with Cassio because she is bored and needs a younger man he says that Cassio also wants Desdemona and how Roderigo is to pick a fight with Cassio to get him into trouble. Iago says that Roderigo is used as he slept with Iago’s wife also. Iago tries to get Cassio to admit his love for Desdemona.
Iago manages to get Cassio drunk and then Roderigo gets Cassio into a fight and Cassio takes it all out on Montano, the governor of Cyprus. The warning bell then wakes Othello; he is cross and gets rid of Cassio as lieutenant. Iago then says how he will tell Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. Iago explains how like a devil he puts on a tactful show but inside I’m demoralized (IIIiii L317-9)”Directly to his good? Divinity of hell! / When devils will blackest sins put on / They do suggest at first with heavenly shows / As I do now.” Although Iago even refers to himself as a devil there is far more to him than what at first meets the eye.