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Shakespeare – Character of Iago in Act I

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    The line above is the very first thing that Iago says in the play. This line occurs right in the beginning of the plot. This gives the audience a sense of the future of the play and also they enter the very world and character of Iago.

    Without a doubt, this first line reveals that he is the villain of the play and he has a sort of conflict or something that has angered him. Shakespeare uses the line very wisely, because through Iago’s cruel and harsh speech (‘Sblood’ was a swear word in Shakespearian time), it opens the play very well. The audience is presented with a conflict that gives the opening a bit of an edge and also makes the audience have a ‘greedy ear’.Act 1- Scene 1 starts off with Iago and Roderigo on the street while it is dark out.

    This also adds to the effect of Iago’s cruel character and also provides the audience of the sense that these two characters are plotting up an evil plan. The audience does not know the reason behind Iago’s motives nor do they know exactly why he is angry. As well, this adds to how Shakespeare use of lack of information in the opening of the play to catch the audience’s devoted attention.’Tush! Never tell me.

    I take it much unkindly that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.’This line is the first line of the play and it is spoken by Roderigo. This line is significant because it reveals both the character of Roderigo and of Iago. It is obvious through this line that Roderigo is a very wealthy nobleman.

    Also, it tells the audience that Iago is borrowing money from Roderigo and further more, that Iago is using him for his money. This proves that Roderigo’s stupidity and that Iago is the sly.Line 7 of Act 1- Scene 1, is the start of a pretty long speech by Iago. This speech is important in establishing Iago’s character, because it holds a lot of useful information.

    (The following quotation is not the entire speech, but only the last couple of lines of it.)’But he, sir, had th’elected; and I, of whom his eyes has seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds Christian and heathen, must be belee’s and calmed by debitor and creditor. This counter-caster, he, in good time, must his lieutenant be, and I- God bless the mark!- his Moorship ancient.’The quotation basically sums up the reason why Iago is so angry.

    He is full of rage at this moment of the play, because he hasn’t been promoted. Iago is an ancient for the Venetian army and he is regarded as a very good, noble fighter. The leader of the army, Othello (but the audience hasn’t encountered him yet at this moment in the play), has elected Cassio, a very inexperienced soldier to be lieutenant. After all those years of hard work and loyalty to Othello, he gets no where.

    This rightfully justifies Iago’s anger, but it can be argued that he goes too far with it in the end.’We cannot be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly followed.’The quotation above basically summarizes Iago’s evil plan and what is going to occur in the rest of the play. This provides the audience with a truth character analysis of what Iago’s beliefs are and therefore entering his mind.

    In this quotation, Shakespeare uses the literary method of antithesis to make this quote very effective.Also, during the beginning of the play when Iago is explaining his character, Shakespeare uses antithesis in his speech. This ties in very well with Shakespeare’s main themes throughout all his plays: appearance versus reality. This theme applies to this play, because the villain (Iago) back-stabs to people to get his way.

    It is revealed to the audience that Iago is going to get his revenge on Iago by being loyal to his face, but behind his back he is plotting Othello’s self-destruction. It is the syntax of Iago’s lines that make his speech very interesting.’In following him, I but follow myself.’and’I am not what I am.

    ‘Throughout the first act Iago, it is obvious that Iago is also a source of comic relief in the play. He uses a number of sexual innuendoes and this reveals to the audience what kind of a villain Iago is. Iago is not a character that is demonized, Shakespeare uses Iago to provide the audience with laughs, and he isn’t all serious like typical villains are portrayed. For example, when Iago and Roderigo call on Brabantio to tell him that his daughter has snuck out to marry Othello, Iago is very rude to Brabantio.

    His speech to him is very blunt and crude. The catch is, that Brabantio cannot see his face and doesn’t know how is talking. This also proves Roderigo’s stupidity, because he isn’t hiding his face. This also proves how Iago is using Roderigo to fulfill his evil plan.

    Notice how in the following quotation, Iago uses animal imagery when referring to women or sex.’…

    an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.’andBrabantio: ‘Thou art a villain’Iago: ‘Thou art- a senator’The matter in which Iago talks to Brabantio is indeed very interesting. He shows absolutely no respect for the senator, but at the same time he does this in a very amusing way and this keeps the audience intoned with the play. This also indicates Shakespeare’s theme of allusion versus reality.

    Another thing that the audience noticed about Iago is his hate for women. When describing sex or women he either uses animal or boat imagery.’Faith, he tonight hath boarded a land carack.’Through this, it is obvious that Iago is a man incapable of love.

    Iago doesn’t understand love, he always s refers to love as sex; he sees it in no other way and this is definitely shown throughout the first act.’I would say I would down myself for the love of a guinea hen, I would change my humanity with a baboon.’That indicates to the audience his disrespect for women. When Iago says: ‘guinea hen’ he is referring to his wife and in those days, that particular expression was a dismissive term for a woman.

    Through this example, Iago’s views on love marriage, etc…are made loud and clear.

    This also adds to his evilness, but yet at the same time also adds to his comic side.In the First Act, there is a great contrast in Iago’s character from when he is alone with Roderigo and when he is with Othello. It would be certainly obvious why Iago would be so, but it is interesting to see how good of a back-stabber he is and how me he commences his evil plot in such a successful way. In Scene 2, Iago is telling Othello, just after he got married to Desdemona, that Roderigo had just told Brabantio of their marriage and how much he wanted to kill him for doing so.

    ‘Yet do I hold it very stuff o’th’ conscience to do no contrived murder. I lack iniquity sometime to do me service. Nine or ten times I had thought t’have yerked him here, under the ribs.’While Iago is telling Othello what happened, he also at the same time stresses how loyal he is to him.

    This fits in with the theme of allusion versus reality.’And spoke such scurvy and provoking terms against your honour, that with the little godliness I have I did full hard forbear him.’At the very end of Scene 3 is where Iago’s character is shown most. Throughout this First Act, he was revealed as a mischievous villain, but Shakespeare uses this part to demonize him more and make the audience take into consideration the horrible things he is capable of.

    In this part Iago is telling Roderigo how he’s going to get Desdemona for Roderigo to marry her and etc… but what is really interesting is that after every line in this speech Iago says:’Put money in thy purse.

    ‘This gives his speech a very hypnosis feel, which makes him appear very devilish. Iago keeps on building up the speech of his plans and what Roderigo is supposedly going to get out of it. In a way, this also gives the feeling for Iago tempting him and through this Iago can fulfill his plan. As the speech goes on, Shakespeare uses lines such as:’Make all the money thou canst.

    ‘This is very effective, because it also builds up the audience and really plays with their emotions and keeps them very interested. What is also very ironic about this speech is that previously when Othello was confronted by the council and Brabantio, he was being accused to intoxicating Desdemona with some sort of witch craft or hypnosis; when it is really Iago who uses such thing to get people to follow him and to get is own way.Iago is not a typical villain. He is different, because he provides comic relief, but yet at the same time is evil.

    In a way it is a sort of a contradiction, but at the same time it adds more to his evilness, it gives him a sort of sadistic flare. Shakespeare often makes the ‘good’, ‘intelligent’ or ‘powerful’ characters speak in rhyme; even though Iago only speaks in prose, he says things that are also very literarily artistic. Shakespeare does this in a very interesting way and it not only makes Iago a truly unique villain, this edge makes him seem like a more truly evil one.

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