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How is Iago Presented In Act 1 Of “Othello” Essay

“Othello” was a play written by William Shakespeare in 1603. This play is a tragedy written in iambic pentameter, with a noble hero named Othello and a devious villain called Iago. Iago changes the story for the worst as he causes Othello to commit suicide and murder his loyal wife because of his fatal flow which is jealousy. The opening of the play confuses the audience for Iago and Roderigo are arguing over Desdemona. The audience may also be confused for they don’t know who the characters are and why they are having this discussion. The confusion and chaos in the play is related to when Queen Elizabeth died for this is how the country felt at the time and were in the middle of a controversy. They may also be shocked when the performance first starts for on stage would have been the first black male performer as there was a lot of prejudice at the time.

Act 1 scene 1 begins with an argument between Iago and Roderigo as this was an effective way to start a play as it gets the audience hooked, because they want to find out what they are arguing about. Iago is Shakespeare’s villain and the audience almost immediately become aware of this hence he has been taking money from a character named Roderigo. This is because Iago was accepting money from him to try and persuade Desdemona to meet Roderigo. We can show this for he says “That thou, Iago, who hast my purse as if the strings were thine”. This shows that Iago can manipulate people very easily he feels he is like a puppeteer been able to have control people. This may make the audience feel sympathetic for Roderigo because he has been duped by his trusted friend. Shakespeare is presenting Iago immediately in a negative light for he contrasts him with the well spoken Roderigo. We also know that theatre was the best kind of entertainment in the early 1600s.

However, also in act I scene I, Shakespeare allows the audience to feel some sympathy for Iago because he loses his position of lieutenant to Michael Cassio. We can show this as he says “I have already chose my officer.” And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician,. One Michael Cassio, a Florentine. That never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows more than a sinister-unless the bookish theatrics”. At this part the audience start to feel sorry for Iago because it should have been him who got the promotion. Othello knows that Iago can fight well in battle as it quotes “And I of whom his eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds”.

This makes the audience confused on why Othello gave the position to Cassio and not Iago. In the text it says “Forsooth, a great arithmetician” showing that Cassio is intelligent, however not strong in battle. In the first scene, Iago states “It is as sure as you are Roderigo, Were the moor, I would not be Iago, In following him, I follow myself” which is showing that he doesn’t follow Othello’s orders and makes his own decisions in what he thinks is right. Later, he says “I am not what I am” which insists that he is following Othello as a loyal, honest friend when the audience, myself and Roderigo know the true side to him.

This is shown because Iago and Roderigo wake Brabantio up in the middle of the night by shouting vulgar comments at his window. They awake Brabantio by saying “Awake! What, ho, Brabantio! Thieves! Thieves! Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags! Thieves! Thieves!”. This shows the audience that they both have no respect, even though Brabantio is a senator. We know this because Iago says to Roderigo “Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell as when, by night and negligence, the fire is spied in populous cities”. This shows the audience that Iago can get people to do anything he wants them to do, backing up the point that he is like a puppeteer.

By awaking brabantio in the middle of the night and saying “Look to your house, your daughter”, it would make him check that Desdemona is in the bed, but as she is absent from the house, this would expose desdemona’s secret to her father. The audience would also feel shocked and disgusted in Iago and Roderigo for they are grown men and are showing a low level of maturity. Iago later shouts “Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” insisting that Othello and Desdemona are having sexual intercourse at this moment in time. The audience can now see that Iago is rude, arrogant, foul mouthed and has low social class.

In this scene Shakespeare presents Iago as a devious and manipulative man. One way he does this is that Iago sets up a confrontation between Roderigo and Brabantio, then slyly walks of leaving Roderigo to bear the brunt of Brabantio`s anger. However, Iago’s ultimate aim is to get revenge on Othello because he gave his promotion to Michael Cassio, even though he is far better in battle and has proved this when Iago says “Of whom his eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds”. This shows that Othello has seen that he rightfully deserved the position of lieutenant. In act I scene I, Iago is twisting Brabantio’s mind and poisoning it with hatred towards Othello in order to make Brabantio urge to cause trouble for him. I think this shows the audience that Iago being cowardly because instead of facing up to Othello and speaking to him about his disagreement for he makes Brabantio and Roderigo work for him.

He does this so he doesn’t get his trust put into question by Othello. This could also lead to him being called a traitor. He is also represented as being manipulative with this quote, “As if the strings were thine” saying that he is like a puppeteer with control over whoever he chooses which later in the play, his skills will pay off as his plan comes into action by getting everyone against each other and it results in mass murder though suspicious Iago aroused. In addition, right at the end of act I scene I, Iago directs Roderigo in the direction of Othello making him in control of the situation showing how easily manipulated Roderigo is.

Pace is built throughout the beginning of the first scene when Iago is making long speeches and rants about Othello. The pace rapidly increases when it gets to the point where Roderigo is under Iago’s spell and is convinced by what he is saying. This is when Iago encourages him to tell Brabantio about Othello and Desdemona, “Call up her father, rouse him”. As soon as Roderigo agrees and begins to wake Brabantio, Iago’s confidence rises as he knows he has accomplished the first part of his devious scheme to get revenge on Othello. Tension is built during the first part of the scene when Iago is giving his monologue, it is an emotional speech and Roderigo learns a lot about him from it. For example, when he says “I wear my heart upon my sleeve”, we know he is not an honest, decent person. It is tense because Roderigo is confused about what to say as he is intimidated by Iago who is very arrogant and proud of himself. Towards the end of the scene, the tension has eased and no one is anxious anymore because everything that needed to be said, has been.

So in act I scene I, Iago isn’t everything he starts off as being represented as it would seem. We begin to believe his ploys of innocence and then they are greatly subverted and changed. Everything we are led to believe changes in minutes of reading as pity turns to hate, and friendship turns to duplicity and manipulation.


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