The great thing about literature is that it is able to portray the feelings of a person, the feelings of a collective whole, and sometimes, even the emotions of the entire nation. Literature is known to reflect the dreams, aspirations, and capabilities of the people. As positive as that may sound, literature can also shockingly show what Man and Nature is capable of doing. The strengths of humankind as well as their weaknesses are shown in the pages of great literary works. The wonderful is written by great literary masters as well as the things that are horrifying.
The beautiful and the ugly are shown behind every mask or agenda of the characters. Good and evil exists in reality, and it is but natural that it shall exist in the pages of literature as well. However, the question of what makes a person evil and what pushes him or her to do evil deeds is one which can be very intriguing. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice (which aside from being staged as plays has also been adapted into a film many times), one of the characters by the name of Iago is considered as one of the most famous literary villains that perhaps, there is no character which can surpass his cunning and his evil.
There is a reason though as to why Iago acted as such, and whether his deeds are justified or not is a subject for argument and can be debated upon — but it still leaves the fact that he is evil through and through. In this essay, Iago’s character and evil complex will be analyzed as to why he is as acting as such in the first place. It is possibly because he is driven by hatred and it is through this hatred that he is unable to connect with his good and better side. A Brief Overview of William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice
Othello is a famous and prominent man in Venice and has recently been proclaimed as general and married to Desdemona, one of the most-sought after ladies of Venice. Because of this, many turn against Othello because of three things mainly: One is he has won the respect of and honor from the Duke and the other government officials of Venice. Second, he has married Desdemona and that caused ripples of both jealousy and envy from many men of Venice, including Iago (who is already married) and Roderigo, another character in the play who is used by Iago for his evil plans.
The third and last is that Othello is a Moor, and being a Moor in Venice says a lot about the history of the discrimination and hostility experienced by the Moors in the Venetian country. The turn of events against Othello is basically caused by jealousy and envy. In fact, the very famous lines of jealousy came from this play, “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on” (3. 3. 170-172). In both the movie and the play, Iago plots and uses other people to make the downfall of Othello seem like he has nothing to do with it.
In fact, the cunning and wily ways he does his acts seem that he is working for the good intentions of everyone — he helps Roderigo capture Desdemona; he helps Cassio try to win the good side of Othello; he helps Othello discover the affair of Desdemona and Cassio; and he helps Desdemona in trying to persuade her husband that she is innocent. Of course, the whole thing is a farce as he is actually the person behind all the conflict. There was never an affair between Cassio and Desdemona as Iago just made it up, and Cassio should not have been wronged in the first place if not for the plan of Roderigo and Iago.
In short, the conflict and chaos of the play were solely caused by Iago, and the sad part is that the other characters actually fell for it. When the film concludes, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Othello are dead. Roderigo has been killed by Iago himself and cleverly done so; Desdemona is appallingly killed by Othello, and Othello in the end is stricken by grief and guilt that he commits suicide over the monstrosity which he has done over the murder of Desdemona. Meanwhile, Emilia (Iago’s own wife) is killed by none other than Iago himself.
Cassio is wounded severely, and Iago is captured to be executed over the monstrosity he has caused. The Complexity of the Character of Iago The villainy and the character of Iago are very interesting to study as it gives such a great background over the psychological workings of an antagonist. Before that, however, there should be an acknowledgment that Iago is indeed evil and that he has indeed wronged the other characters of the movie. To say that he is the antagonist and that Othello is the protagonist is wrong since it merely implies that Iago wronged Othello only since Iago has wronged everyone in the movie.
That is perhaps one of the reasons why Iago is such a classic and frightening villain since he has the ability to control all the characters and cause their downfall while there is clearly no offense which the other characters have done, most especially by Othello. This leads to the subject matter at hand — why did Iago hate Othello so much that he would waste his time, effort, and intelligence in plotting Othello’s downfall? This essay will give three reasons as to why Iago acted on such principles and beliefs. A Moor in Venice
According to the book by Faith Nostbakken entitled “Understanding Othello: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents,” Moors in the time of the Elizabethan era were considered as low-lifes or inferior people. They would be the ones serving the English or the ones who would have jobs that are considered as unfit for an English person to have. Mostly however, they were treated as such because they have an entirely different religion than that of the English race, aside from looking different.
They also have an entirely different upbringing because of their customs and traditions. Because Othello is Moor, this could be one of the reasons why Iago hates him so since he hates the race of the Moors. In fact, in the first scene and act of the play wherein Iago and Roderigo are talking and plotting against Othello, their contempt and discrimination for the person is very obvious with their language and reference to Othello. Because Othello is a Moor, Iago hates him. The Fight for the Power and the Glory
When Roderigo and Iago were talking, the audience understands that Iago hates Othello because Othello supposedly stole the position of being a lieutenant (or general) from Iago. Othello has the power and the fame which Iago wants, and it is but natural that Iago gets infuriated with this situation. In Joan Lor Hall’s book, the character of Iago is analyzed and he is even regarded as being “honest” (72) since he is just being plain clear and straightforward over his wishes and desires.
However, the problem resides in the fact that when Iago wanted to claim what he feels was rightfully his, other characters are hurt. This trait is what makes Iago an evil manipulator. Conclusion In conclusion, Iago’s evilness may be justified by the two aspects mentioned above, but no matter what, there seems to be an atmosphere in the play and in the movie that Iago’s action may have no reason at all. The fact that he hates Othello is a real wonder, and the reason why he hates Othello and why he acted the way he did is one which William Shakespeare could only answer.
Works Cited Hall, Joan Lord. Othello: A Guide to the Play. Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1999. Nostbakken, Faith. Understanding Othello: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000. Othello. Dir. Olivia Parker. Perfs. Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob, Kenneth Branagh. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995. Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York: Heinemann, 2000.
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