How does Shakespeare create an effective villain through his presentation of Iago in the soliloquies?
Over 400 years ago, the theatre was one of the most popular and novel forms of entertainment around - How does Shakespeare create an effective villain through his presentation of Iago in the soliloquies? introduction. The leading role model here was William Shakespeare, with his 40 plays that captivated audiences the length and breadth of 16th and 17th century England. His plays are divided into three different genres: Comedy, Tragedy and History. In the era that Shakespeare’s plays started to earn the recognition we now see he deserved, tragedies were seen as the more popular with plays like Titus Andronicus and King Lear.
One of his more famous tragedies was “Othello,” the tragic story of a young, valiant and well respected Moor, who is driven to suicide as a result of the exploitation of his fatal flaw. In this case, it is his jealousy of his wife Desdemona supposedly sleeping with Cassio. In this essay I will be analysing the villain in the play, Iago, and his soliloquies, the numerous solo speeches to the audience. These establish Iago as the main villain and allow him to reveal his inner most thoughts. Even today many people still enjoy re-enactments of Shakespeare’s plays, either on stage or through television or films.
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This is because many of the themes Shakespeare based his plays on, relate to many modern day events. In his first soliloquy, it is the first time the audience sees Iago’s true feelings towards Othello and Roderigo, “I hate the Moor,” and “such a snipe. ” The fact that the first quote is so short means that it is very blunt and to the point. You also see his duplicitous nature, from him being loyal towards Othello before the soliloquy, to him desperately seeking revenge, “The Moor is of free and open nature/and will as tenderly be led by th’noose.
This simile shows that Iago wants to exploit Othello’s second fatal flaw, his gullibility or his, “free and open nature. ” This is also when we start to see Shakespeare’s presentation of a villainous character and Iago starting to become increasingly evil. Another thing is that you see why Iago has become evil, “To get his place, and to plume up my will. ” Furthermore, he enjoys being evil, “my sport and profit. ” He revels in his villainous role in the play and is unpredictable at times which makes him all the more threatening.
His careless disregard for whoever else his plans might affect and the lack of proof he needs before acting, “will do as if for surety,” expresses Iago’s scariest character trait: his impulsive nature. Iago portrays the inner-workings of his mind through the soliloquies and this enables you to see his thought process whilst he is thinking about his next dastardly deed, “How? How? Let’s see… ” and “Let me see now. ” This clever use of rhetorical devices makes him seem cunning and skilful because he is questioning himself; he has the answers to all of his questions.
He is nearly always duplicitous in the nature of his plans so as to fool people into thinking that he is trustworthy enough. This trust is also extended to the audience because he is revealing the structure of his plans to them and them alone. This makes the audience feel like the have a higher status as they know about all the things that Iago is going to do. Shakespeare’s use of imagery is very strong throughout Iago’s soliloquies, but in this one it is particularly strong. His use of animal imagery of an ass or donkey in particular is flamboyant, “… will as tenderly be led by th’noose. As well as animal imagery, his imagery of Heaven and Hell is strong in, “Hell and Night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light. ”
The word choice here of “monstrous” depicts the size of his plan as huge, and it makes you think that a lot of planning must have gone into it. When he is talking about his plans, which is continuously done throughout the play, it is like you are witnessing the birth of his plan, with Iago being the over-protective father. This, along with the fact that he has got the help of the devil, makes him even more evil in the face of his plans concerning Othello.
By Act 2 Scene 1, you are able to see Iago’s plan constantly broadening. In his first soliloquy he is wondering how his plan will take shape, whereas in this his plans are more developed and he can see that he wants revenge on Othello. He has also decided on the outcome of his plan – Othello’s fatal flaw becoming more prominent and this jealousy driving him to madness, “into a jealousy so strong/that judgement cannot cure” Because it says “that judgement cannot cure. ” it must be a very fervent kind of jealousy.
He also wants to incorporate other characters that we have not seen much about yet, in the shape of Cassio, “I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip,” Roderigo, “that poor trash of Venice,” and Desdemona, “And I dare think he’ll prove to Desdemona. ” The word use of “that” and “trash” seem like he has really focused on making Roderigo feel like he is insignificant. All these characters will help Iago to get his own way. His plans centreing on Othello’s jealousy stems from the supposed fact that Othello had slept with Iago’s wife Emilia. You see this in, “Hath leap’d into my seat.
However, this statement is ambiguous, because this “seat” could mean either his bed or the fact that Othello had been promoted over Iago. Iago then is in a state of paranoia concerning Othello and his wife Desdemona. You can clearly see that Iago is angry with Othello when he calls him, “the lusty Moor. ” When Iago calls Othello “lusty” he is referring to the supposed fact that Othello has slept with his wife Emilia. Also, it could refer to the issue of Othello’s race. In Shakespeare’s time there were many assumptions about people of a different colour.
Iago needs Othello in the palm of his hand, otherwise his plan will not work, “Make the Moor thank me, love me and reward me” The pattern of three emphasises Iago’s egocentricity with the repeated use of the word “me. ” When he uses “reward me,” this reward is that Iago’s plan will succeed. This shows that Iago needs to be loyal and honest to Othello so that no one suspects him. As Iago says that he will “Make the Moor,” do all these things shows just how cunning and wily he is. In the beginning of the soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 1, you see who he wants to incorporate into his plan, “The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not… and how he will do it, “… is of a constant, loving and noble nature. ”
This pattern of three is used to re-emphasise with the audience how good Othello is. Iago will exploit these aspects of Othello’s demeanour and send him mad with jealousy. You also see him talk about Cassio, “That Cassio loves her, I do well believe it. ” He then refers back to him at the end of this particular soliloquy, about how he is going to use him in his plans, “I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip. ” The use of “our” furthermore involves the audience in Iago’s plan making.
This makes the audience think that he is trustworthy, as he is revealing his plans to them. He also, as in the first soliloquy, shows signs of his duplicitous character by stating that he’ll have Michael Cassio “on the hip. ” This also shows that Iago wants to keep Cassio close to him also re-emphasises Iago’s manipulative streak. By the time you reach the end of this soliloquy, Iago has realised how he is going to put his plans into action, although he states that he hasn’t finished it, and “Tis here but yet confused: Knavery’s plain face is never seen, till used. His true intentions will never be revealed until the moment comes. By using the words “plain face,” it makes him sound more honest and believable for the audience.
This makes the audience less wary of him as they have discovered a little bit more about his plan. However, the audience wants to see his plans put into action quickly, as the planning stage of Iago’s villainy is nearing its end. In Act 2 Scene 2, Iago gives the audience his actual plans for the first time in the play, “If I can fasten one cup upon him. ” The word “fasten” gives you the impression that it is fixed and there is nothing you can do about it.
Iago has made sure that this is going to happen and that there is no way back. It also shows how decisive Iago is when it comes to plan making. His plans have now focused on someone else to help him get his revenge on Othello. This person is Cassio. Iago’s scheme aims to exploit his fatal flaw – his aggressive reaction to alcohol. “If I can fasten but one cup upon him/he’ll be as full of quarrel and offence as my young mistress’ dog. ” The animal imagery of a dog is not that pleasant and the simile of his “young mistress’ dog,” makes the picture of Cassio as a drunk even more unpleasant.
Suspense is built up in stages in this soliloquy. These stages advance when Iago brings other characters into his plan. First it is Cassio, on how he is going to get him drunk and offensive. Then it is Roderigo on how he is going to be on watch, drunk as well. Then there are the three Cypriots who are very proud and patriotic, “that hold their honours in a wary distance,” and how he has “fluster’d them with flowing cups” to get them drunk as well. The alliteration of “fluster’d” and “flowing” creates suspense as well as “potations pottle-deep. “Potations” sound like potions, and makes you think that Iago has somehow bewitched the people who are going to be in his plan. This makes him sound like an evil sorcerer or wizard.
The connotations of evil sorcery or wizardry makes Iago seem almost unreal. Also, the public in Shakespeare’s time would have felt intimidated by the link to witchcraft. Iago thinks his plans are in the hands of someone else. “If consequence do but approve my dream. ” This makes him even scarier as he doesn’t really care if it happens or not. “My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream. The use of “boat” as a metaphor for his plans, as well as the perfect weather conditions and wind makes it sound like nothing will go wrong, and shows Iago’s level of confidence in his plans. The plan has built up enough momentum for nothing to get in its way. As in the first two soliloquies, the soliloquy ends in a rhyming couplet with “dream” and “stream. ” Shakespeare does this at the end of nearly every soliloquy to summarise his ideas, ready to go into a new line of speech. He also uses this at the end of scenes to make them seem complete.
Later on in Act 2 scene 2, Iago’s plan starts to focus on Desdemona, so as to help him exploit Othello and his fatal flaw, “The inclining Desdemona to subdue. ” Because Iago has noticed that Desdemona is weak and easy to mould to do his will, it will be easy for him to exploit Othello’s fatal flaw, or his “weak function” as Iago calls it. It is easy because his plan is now getting believable; people like Cassio are noticing it, but because he is a master at duplicity they believe him, like at the beginning of the soliloquy with, “Good night, honest Iago. ” This creates dramatic irony, as Iago, of course, is not honest in the slightest.
When he mentions that Desdemona is going to be a key part in the play he uses a metaphor that Desdemona will, “out of her own goodness make the net/that shall enmesh them all. ” Desdemona has turned from good to bad – this shows how easy someone can be turned by Iago’s villainy. The use of the word “all” makes it seem like Iago doesn’t matter who his plans seem to capture. Although Desdemona doesn’t know it, she will be helping Iago in his plan to help him exploit Othello’s jealousy. In this soliloquy Iago uses a lot of rhetorical devices.
“And what’s he then that says I play the villain? In this case, his duplicitous nature again comes to light. The rhetorical question here feigns his innocence and shows how plausible his plans have become. “To counsel Cassio to this parallel course, directly to good? ” This is another rhetorical device. It talks about how Iago is going to manipulate Cassio to his own good. The word “parallel” gives you the idea of exact opposites – good and bad, happy and sad, as well as “virtue into pitch” when talking about Desdemona. As Desdemona is portrayed throughout the play as the perfect image of a woman, talking about her being likened to “pitch” is obviously a complete opposite.
Imagery also plays another big part – with Desdemona as a net, and her ability to capture men. Also, the use of poison and pestilence that creates unpleasant connotations that you don’t assosciate with women, “When devils will the blacks sins put on” Again this makes Iago seem close to the devil and almost on personal terms with it and that he understands the whole concept of villainy and he believes that he is unstoppable. In Act 3 Scene 3, Iago’s attention focuses onto a napkin, Desdemona’s napkin to be precise. “I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin. This is evidence of the manipulative stage of Iago’s plan, “And let him find it” This is the “ocular proof” that Othello needed to pin Desdemona to having an affair with Cassio. This is where the audience start to see the real Iago, the evil Iago.
Poison is talked about frequently, “The Moor already changes with my poison. ” This is one form of poison, the lies and treachery Iago has made Othello believe over the course of the play. The other type of poison is at the end of the poem, after Othello has re-entered, “Not poppy, nor mandragora… shall medicine thee to that sweet sleep… This refers back to when Iago says that he will put Othello “into a jealousy so strong that judgement cannot cure. ” He also talks about potions and poison in “potations pottle-deep” and “doth like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards. ” These connotations reinforce the dark forces and sorcery surrounding Iago. By one of his later soliloquies in Act 5 Scene 1. His plan is nearing his end, “I have rubbed this young quat almost to the sense/and he grows angry. ” This is also purposely ambiguous; it could be either his plan or talking about Roderigo.
In this quote, “angry” could either be his plan nearing its climax, or Roderigo literally getting angry. However, as Roderigo gets ready to fight Cassio, Iago doesn’t really mind who dies at first. This is because if Cassio dies, Roderigo would want all of the gold he has given to Iago to help him pursue Desdemona back; if Roderigo died, Cassio would live, and he would make Iago look ugly due to Cassio being attractive. In the end Iago realises that Cassio must die, “No, he must die,” because as well as him making Iago look ugly, he might reveal Iago’s true intentions to Othello, and put Iago, “… n much peril. ” In conclusion, I think that Iago is quite effective as a villain in this play. His plan is very good and is going well, and he could see how it is going to unfold. However, his control of the plan was not that good as in the end his plans unravelled on him, causing him to be sent to be tortured, Othello and Desdemona dying and Cassio becoming the Governor of Cyprus. In the play, as well as plotting an evil plan, he uses many techniques to portray himself as being evil.
Mainly these are rhetorical devices or references to things he has already mentioned in a previous soliloquy. This makes Iago almost sound like a pedantic villain – having to clean up every little thing that he has mentioned, even the little tiniest detail. Iago also has an appeal with modern day audiences, as well as those in the Elizabethan era when these plays first came about. I think this is because Iago is a stereotypical villain, with many character traits similar to those of many modern day villains. This is also the same case with the play “Othello” itself.