Shakespeare wrote about heroic people such as Generals - Iago's character introduction. Instead of some fatal chance, Shakespeare’s characters have an inner weakness or moral flaw, something, which makes their personality incomplete. It is this, which eventually leads to their downfall, and it is this, which causes the tragedy.
After looking back at Greek tragedies, Shakespeare has written the play, Othello named after one of the main characters in which great kings or warriors that seemed invisible suffered at the hands of fate. It’s set in Venice (Italy) because in Shakespeare’s days, it was a very rich and busy city. It was part of the spice route. It is a good setting because Iago is money grabbing modern man.
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The Moroccan, Othello who just got married to Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona at the beginning of the play speaks grandly and poetically with romantic images of his wife.
My essay is based on the most interesting villain of the play. Iago is named after the patron saint of Spain, England’s great enemy at the time this play was written.
He is an important character in the play who is very different from the rest of the characters. Iago’s characteristics enable him to dominate and control the action manipulating the rest of the characters as a stage manager. Lying to them is one of his common methods. The quote, “The strings were thine” tells the reader Iago is like a puppeteer.
Iago is the sergeant of Othello. In contrast with Othello, Iago’s language is full of animal and sexual imagery, such as when he describes Othello and Desdemona as the “Beast with two backs”. The quote, “Pox of drowning” tells the reader Iago’s language also often consists of lust, dirt and disease.
Iago makes it clear at the opening of the play that he wishes to take revenge on Othello, the moor and he sets about doing so straightaway from the moment the men and women are partying in Cyprus to celebrate their victory against the Turks. This is mainly because the job he wanted as a Lieutenant wasn’t given to him. He says to himself, “I know my worth, Lieutenant.”
Instead it was given to Cassio.
Having the skill of judging people successfully, Iago knows Othello is too trusting. Othello could be said to be blind to the real nature of those around him. He lacks the ability to understand people.
Iago knows, only too well, that Cassio is very gullible. He enjoys the company of women and that he cannot drink a lot of alcohol or else he becomes angry.
Using Cassio as his middle man Iago is able to gain an advantage to further his plans successfully throughout the play.
The first incident happens in Act Two of the play in Cyprus. Having known Cassio looses control of himself by drinking too much alcohol Iago encourages him to drink a few pints and celebrate their victory along with the rest of the men. As a lieutenant Cassio should be on guard duty. Iago then signals Roderigo to cause an argument with him and gradually take it to a physical fight. He does so and they both fight each other. Iago doesn’t get involved in the incident at all. Instead he tells the governor of Cyprus that Cassio cannot drink. The governor tries to stops the fight but Cassio becomes even more violent and eventually wounds Montano. Othello is called away from Desdemona on their first night together. Iago once again pretends not to want to say anything about Cassio. Othello suspects Iago of trying to protect and cover up for Cassio. Cassio is cashiered and no longer Othello’s lieutenant.
Having the skill of adapting to any situation at any time with anyone is another major advantage for Iago.
Iago is often described as a ‘trouble maker’. He uses many methods to achieve what he wants. He twists words around very often when communicating to Othello and Cassio, especially when they are away from each other and no one else is around.
His level of vigilance is very high. Being Othello’s sergeant, Iago moves around from one place to another completing his given task and at the same time stealing information from others and setting himself up for what he wishes to do next.
Iago is also greedy for money. This may be one of the reasons why he wanted the lieutenant’s job so eagerly.
When Iago is with Roderigo he shows his greed to the maximum level. Knowing Roderigo is a very wealthy person he tells him, “Put money in thy purse.”
As Iago’s plan to hate Othello progresses, so do his insults. We do not know whether Iago is racist, but he uses the racism within the Venetian society, such as that of Brabantio, to stir up trouble for Othello.
“An old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” This is a gross image which turns love making into an act of coupling between animals.
Iago hates women. This is because he, as an individual does not believe in love. His interpretation of love is lust. He says he holds,
“That you call love, to be sect or scion.” He describes the love for a woman as, “the love of a guinea-hen.”
However Iago also mentions to himself about Othello, “He’ll prove to Desdemona a most dear husband.” He goes on to admit to the audience that, “Now, I love her too.” Iago may be jealous about Othello having Desdemona when he knows that she would never ever love someone as capable of evil as himself. This may be the biggest spur and reason for Iago’s actions.
In the Elizabethan days, for someone to be as bad as Iago would be believed to be connected to a devil. When Othello married Desdemona he was accused of witchcraft, as Iago says she “Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.” This shows me that Iago is fully aware of the evil that he needs to accomplish his mission to destroy Othello. In the final scene Othello says, “If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee.” Othello wounds him. Iago answers back to Othello, “I bleed sir, but not killed.” This proves Iago thinks of himself as a devil because he isn’t dead yet.
Another incident happens in Act Three from the moment Desdemona drops the handkerchief that Othello gave her on their honeymoon. Emilia knowing that her husband wants it, takes it away and gives it to Iago, who decides to use the handkerchief part of what he planned. Othello re-enters, and tells Iago that he now doubts his wife and Othello demands “ocular proof” of Desdemona’s dishonesty, so Iago sets about making stories up about Cassio talking in his sleep, and says that Cassio has the handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona. Iago knows how important this handkerchief is to Othello. It was his first gift to Desdemona, and was given to him by his mother. Othello is annoyed to hear that Desdemona would give away something so valuable, and is persuaded by Iago’s insinuations and claims to believe that Desdemona is guilty. Othello then swears to have Cassio killed, and to be revenged upon Desdemona for the non-existent affair.
Desdemona is looking everywhere for the handkerchief and is very sorry to have lost it, Othello enters his wife’s room and asks for Desdemona’s handkerchief. She admits that she does not have it, and then Othello tells her of its significance and magical powers. Desdemona interrupts Othello’s inquiry by bringing up Cassio’s attempt to get back into Othello’s favor; Othello becomes angry, and storms out. Desdemona and Emilia both note that Othello is much changed; he is unkind and seems jealous, and they are suspicious of the change in him. Cassio then enters, with Iago; he laments that his suit is not successful, and that Othello does not seem likely to take him back.
Desdemona tells Cassio and Iago that Othello has been acting strange, and is upset, and Iago goes to look for him, feigning concern. Emilia thinks that Othello’s change has something to do with Desdemona, or Othello’s jealous nature; they still cannot fathom what has happened, and exit, leaving Cassio. Bianca comes in, and Cassio asks her to copy the handkerchief that he found in his room; it is Desdemona’s handkerchief, though Cassio has no idea. He claims he does not love her, and gets angry at her for allegedly suspecting that the handkerchief is a gift of another woman. But, Bianca is not disturbed, and leaves with the handkerchief.
Iago is often one step ahead than others. He is two-sided and swears ‘By Janus’. From the outside he seems very honest and loyal who is willing to advise and help people but on the inside he is very nosey, cunning, sly and deceitful.
Iago has a powerful effect on Othello throughout the play. The quote, “Hold your hands.” shows us near the beginning how Othello speaks with a noble and grand manager.
Towards the end of the play we see just how Iago has managed to dominate and control Othello’s mind. Othello uses animal imagery and words of lust and sex.
Iago could be seen as evil incarnated, in the flesh as a devil. The Elizabethans would have believed in the presence of a devil.
Then again, Iago did have reasons for what he did. He was promoted over by Cassio and knew what he was inside and that no woman would ever love him purely. Finally, many critics believe Iago is there to test the goodness of the more old fashioned, noble characters such as Othello and Desdemona.