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Iago: Character's Literary Study
Iago, an ensign serving below Othello, the Moorish commander of the armed forces of Venice, is undoubtedly the most interesting and perplexing character in Othello. This is supported not only by what he says in the play but also through his actions, each of which allow him to skillfully manipulate these in his orbit in order to boost his large ego and propel him closer to his individual, evil ambitions. As the consummate villain, Iago serves as the primary driving force in the play which inevitably directs the other characters towards their tragic ends by means of numerous fatal flaws.
As shown in Act One of Othello, Iago is not a common literary villain he is complex, intelligent and persevering. His innate potential to delve into the extremely souls of his antagonists is utilized to its full benefit. The beginning of Act One demonstrates this with Iago producing a total fool out of his loyal follower Roderigo whom he has deftlytaken benefit of through Roderigo’s remark “That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings have been thine” (1.1.21), a sign that Iago has managed to manipulate the monetary fortunes of Roderigo for his personal advantage. This scenario is thickened when Iago demands that Roderigo “make money” (1.3.339) in order for him to get costly gifts for Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio the senator of Venice, which Iago hopes will move her heart to enjoy him.
Iago continues his shenanigans by confessing to Roderigo that he “hates the Moor” (1.three.344), a reference to becoming passed over for promotion by Othello, and via his information that Roderigo is madly in love with Desdemona, a truth which Iago uses to his benefit in order to swindle funds and jewels from Roderigo—“Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (1.3.335).
In Act Two, Iago’s villainous nature is improved when Cassio, Othello’s chief of employees, is observed by Iago holding the hand of Desdemona which sets into motion yet another scheme highlighted by the line “With as little a net as this will I ensnare as fantastic a fly as Cassio” (two.1.163). Like Roderigo, Cassio submits to Iago’s each and every whim even though under the assumption that Iago is only attempting to assist him but in reality, it is Cassio’s downfall that attracts Iago. In addition, given that Iago is a very intelligent man, he speedily realizes the positive aspects that come with trust which he considers as a indicates to additional his objectives. As a symbol of his accurate arrogance, Iago says of himself “I am an honest man” (2.3.245) which is swiftly deemed to be a false statement when he has Cassio terminated as Othello’s chief of employees. Following this, another scheme erupts in Iago’s mind through telling Cassio to beg Desdemona to assist him in his causes (“She holds it a vice in her goodness not to do a lot more than she is requested” (two.three.287). This act places Cassio in dire straits and leads to much more chicanery with Cassio, still beneath Iago’s villainous spell, saying “You advise me well” (two.3.292). Hence, Cassio is ensnared which inevitably leads to Roderigo performing great bodily harm to him with Iago, his “trusted” buddy, as the instigator.
In Act 3, we find out that even Othello himself has been duped by the treachery of Iago. Othello sees his “close friend” as 1 of his trusted advisors, a man “of exceeding honesty, (who) knows all qualities, with learned spirit of human dealings” (three.3.257). In this case, Othello is really correct with his assumption that Iago “knows all qualities,” but not in the way of becoming a trustworthy associate, for Iago utilizes his knowledge of these qualities to further his ambitions at the expense of others.
In Act 4, the character of Roderigo lastly starts to suspect that Iago is far from an honest man, for he declares that “I believe (Iago’s treachery). . . is scurvy, and commence to discover myself fopped in it” (four.2.189), a reference to becoming trapped in Iago’s schemes of gaining riches and the hand of Desdemona. When Roderigo confronts his “honest friend” with his suspicions, Iago reveals his plans to have Cassio murdered, a suggestion which Roderigo, due to own adore for Desdemona, finds attractive but with reservations—“I have no great devotion to the deed, and but he (Iago) has given me satisfying reason” (five.1.8). This choice on Roderigo’s element seals his fate as a consequence of trusting the “honest” Iago.
Hence, via the entire play, the character of Iago alters tiny except in the approach of his treachery which increases proportionally. As William Hazlitt explains, Iago is “an extreme instance (of) diseased intellectual activity, with the most perfect indifference to moral good or evil” (346).
Hazlitt, William. Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays. London: C.H. Reynell, 1817.
Spencer, T.J.B., ed. Othello, By William Shakespeare. New York: Penquin Classics, 1981.
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