Shakespeare: Iago-A Scheming Machiavellian

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Iago is one of the most famous evil characters portrayed in William Shakespeare’s plays. Iago is a character from another famous play, “Othello”. Iago is a Machiavellian character whose acts do not involve morality or religious beliefs. The character of Iago is also focused on revenge. Iago is depicted as villain in the story; however, throughout the play the audience could not envisage the exact nature of Iago.

The character of Iago is complex, smart, cunning and clever. He is one who knows to manipulate and make others act as per his plans. He is always busy in making plots against one or another person and is seen as an expert in fooling and bluffing others. He takes advantage of other people weaknesses. His appearance is confusing and deceptive, a fact that is quite obvious when he is named and called “Honest Iago” and he also consider and claims him as one. He is not sincere to anybody. He plays double games with everybody around. Iago is always seen as a scheming Machiavellian in the play.

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The main character of the play is the “Moor” Othello who is in married to Desdemona. The primary victim of Iago is the gullible Roderigo followed by Cassio. Cassio and Roderigo both are lovers of Desdemona but she is committed to her husband, Othello. Both become victims and tools of Iago’s conspiracy against Othello. Iago conveys his enmity towards Othello and making Roderigo think that he and Iago are going to work together to get Desdemona away from Othello.

I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted; thine hath no

less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge

against him: if thou canst cuckold him, thou dost

thyself a pleasure, me a sport. There are many

events in the womb of time which will be delivered.

Traverse! go, provide thy money. We will have more

of this to-morrow. Adieu [Act 1, Scene 3]

Initially, Iago make his victims think of him as their best friend.  Iago gives various suggestions to Cassio and Roderigo which they follow blindly.  Iago is jealous of Cassio because of the position he is awarded and which Iago always wanted for his own self. The scheme of things shows that Iago is against every one around and is jealous and revengeful by nature. His character is immoral and shows this characteristic at every occasion. It is difficult to find out the actual enemy of Iago as he is against everyone and indulged in acts of vengeance. He keeps on convincing Othello about the disloyalty of his wife in way that he starts believing him without any solid proof.

On the other hand, he pretends to act as a bridge between Roderigo and Desdemona. He steals all the precious gifts and money that Roderigo send for Desdemona through Iago. He does not feel any embarrassment when Roderigo finally uncovers his dishonesty rather shouts back at him and threatens him. Finally he succeeds to convince Roderigo to kill Cassio. The main attributes of Iago are his intellect and wit and the power to say correct things at appropriate time however, the only things he lack are morals and conscience. He always drives the nail aright and this makes him successful. He is unethical and amoral and never hesitates to commit acts of murder for his own benefit and interests. He even kills Roderigo and his own wife whom he considers as a hindrance in the execution of his corrupt plans.

The second man that Iago manipulated throughout the play was Michael Cassio. Cassio was a decent man who was a target of Iago’s evil because of his position as a lieutenant to Othello. This is where the title of Machiavellian Tactician is applied to Iago. With Cassio out of the way, Iago will be raised to Othello’s lieutenant. In order to achieve this goal, Iago sets Cassio up at the party in the street, convincing him to drink alcohol until he becomes easy to anger. Iago pressures Cassio into drinking more wine by saying things like,

O, they are our friends; but one cup: I’ll drink for

You” [Act 2, Scene 3]


“What, man! ’tis a night of revels: the gallants

desire it [Act 2, Scene 3]

Along with singing songs about drinking to entice him further. Once Cassio has drank him silly, Iago sets Roderigo after him to push him over the edge of anger. As Cassio chases Roderigo, Montano steps in and tries to stop Cassio. This of course only adds to Cassio’s anger, and he fights with Montano, hurting him. At this point Othello comes to the scene and stops the fight. After hearing what has happened from Iago – who makes his story all the more believable by pretending to struggle with himself over whether or not to say negative things about Cassio. Othello decides to strip Cassio of his title of lieutenant and raise Iago in his place. Naturally Iago doesn’t skip a beat in capitalizing on this situation. He wastes no time in comforting Cassio, and giving him his advice to befriend Desdemona, since she has a large amount of influence over Othello. This keeps Cassio close to Desdemona, which allows Iago to plant his evil seeds in Othello’s mind.

Like other Shakespearean characters, Iago could also be termed more of a psychic nature. Iago is an evil and immoral being and posses an extreme feeling of revenge. Unlike Shakespearean characters like Hamlet who took revenge because of genuine reasons, Iago is by nature evil and is revengeful without any reasons but due to his own unscrupulous and devilish designs. He is psychologically moved but in an opposite or devilish direction. He has no room for moralities and virtue and openly admits the fact about himself.

thought you had received

some bodily wound; there is more sense in that than

in reputation. Reputation is an idle and most false

imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without

deserving: you have lost no reputation at all,

unless you repute yourself such a loser [Act 2, Scene 3]

Iago never thinks seriously about hurting or damaging the people around him but do it to satisfy his egoistic nature. He bears a personality similar to a scorpion that blindly hurts everyone. He has no regards for human beings and considers them as tools to fulfill his ruthless schemes. Iago is opposed to everyone without any reason and is an evil by nature. He never gives a second thought to his vindictive plans and goes to the last point in injuring his opponents. Iago is sort of a Machiavellian character who keeps on suppressing people in the surrounding. He is immoral, wicked and dissolute.

His manipulations on the individuals around him make Iago a perfectly evil character in the play. He is always willing to devastate anyone for only a minor benefit. Like a true Machiavellian,  Iago always target his most dearer and closet friends of his evil intentions and takes pleasure in doing so.

Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Retrieved October 15, 2008


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Shakespeare: Iago-A Scheming Machiavellian. (2016, Oct 14). Retrieved from

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