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Othello, Analysis Of Iago Essay, Research Paper

Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello

Perhaps the most interesting and exotic character in the tragic play “Othello,” by

William Shakespeare, is “Honest” Iago. Through some carefully thought-out words

and actions, Iago is able to manipulate others to do things in a way that benefits him

and moves him closer toward his goals. He is the main driving force in this play,

pushing Othello and everyone else towards their tragic end.

Iago is not your ordinary villain. The role he plays is rather unique and complex, far

from what one might expect. Iago is smart. He is an expert judge of people and their

characters and uses this to his advantage. For example, he knows Roderigo is in

love with Desdemona and figures that he would do anything to have her as his own.

Iago says about Roderigo, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.” [Act I, Scene

III, Line 355] By playing on his hopes, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels

from Roderigo, making himself a substantial profit, while using Roderigo to forward

his other goals. He also thinks quick on his feet and is able to improvise whenever

something unexpected occurs. When Cassio takes hold of Desdemona’s hand

before the arrival of the Moor Othello, Iago says, “With as little a web as this will I

ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.” [Act II, Scene I, Line 163] His cunning and

craftiness make him a truly dastardly villain indeed.

Being as smart as he is, Iago is quick to recognize the advantages of trust and uses it

as a tool to forward his purposes. Throughout the story he is commonly known as,

and commonly called, “Honest Iago.” He even says of himself, “I am an honest

man….” [Act II, Scene III, Line 245] Trust is a very powerful emotion that is easily

abused. Othello, “holds [him] well;/The better shall [Iago's] purpose work on him.”

[pg. 1244, Line 362] Iago is a master of abuse in this case turning people’s trust in

him into tools to forward his own goals. His “med’cine works! Thus credulous fools

are caught….” [pg. 1284, Line 44] Iago slowly poisons people’s thoughts, creating

ideas in their heads without implicating himself. “And what’s he then that says I play

the villain, when this advice is free I give, and honest,” [Act II, Scene III, Line 299]

says Iago, the master of deception. And thus, people rarely stop to consider the

possibility that old Iago could be deceiving them or manipulating them, after all, he is

“Honest Iago.”

Iago makes a fool out of Roderigo. In fact, the play starts out with Iago having

already taken advantage of him. Roderigo remarks, “That thou, Iago, who hast had

my purse as if the strings were thine.” [Act I, Scene I, Line 2] Throughout the play,

Iago leads Roderigo by the collar professing that he “hate(s) the Moor” [Act I,

Scene III, Line 344] and telling Roderigo to “make money” [Act I, Scene III, Line

339] so that he can give gifts to Desdemona to win her over. During the whole play

however, Iago is just taking those gifts that Roderigo intends for Desdemona and

keeps them for himself. Roderigo eventually starts to question Iago’s honesty, saying

“I think it is scurvy, and begin to find myself fopped in it.” [Act IV, Scene II, Line

189] When faced with this accusation, Iago simply offers that killing Cassio will aid

his cause and Roderigo blindly falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. “I have no great

devotion to the deed, and yet he has given me satisfying reason,” [Act V, Scene I,

Line 8] says the fool Roderigo. And with this deed, Roderigo is lead to his death by

the hands of none other than, “Honest Iago.”

Cassio, like Roderigo, follows Iago blindly, thinking the whole time that Iago is trying

to help him. And during this whole time, Iago is planning the demise of Cassio, his

supposed friend. On the night of Cassio’s watch, Iago convinces him to take another

drink, knowing very well that it will make him very drunk. Cassio just follows along,

though he says, “I’ll do’t, but it dislikes me.” [Act II, Scene III, Line 37] Iago is able

to make him defy his own reasoning to take another drink! Crafty, is this Iago.

When Roderigo follows through with the plan Iago has set on him, Cassio is made to

look like an irresponsible fool, resulting in his termination as lieutenant. After this

incident, Iago sets another of his plans in motion by telling Cassio to beg Desdemona

to help his cause, saying, “she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than

she is requested.” [Act II, Scene III, Line 287] And thus, Cassio is set on a dark

path which leads to trouble and mischief. Yet, Cassio follows it blindly telling Iago,

“You advise me well.” [Act II, Scene III, Line 292] With this, Cassio is eventually

led into a trap where Roderigo maims him, and all that time, Iago – his friend – is

behind it all.

Lowly Iago, is capable of anything – not even Othello is safe from this villain. Othello

holds Iago to be his close friend and advisor. He believes Iago to be a person, “of

exceeding honesty, [who] knows all qualities, with learned spirit of human dealings.”

[Act III, Scene III, Line 257] Yes, he does know all about human dealings, but no

he is not honest. He uses the trust Othello puts in him to turn Othello eventually into

a jealous man, looking everywhere.


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