Explore how Shakespeare Conveys the Charcter of Iago

Categories: William Shakespeare

In the early 1600's the view of a black man was radically different to peoples views now. So the play and its plot of a black man marrying a white girl from a high-class family would have been very shocking and implausible. A large number of people at the time would have had similar views as Iago's, so this essay is exploring how Shakespeare conveys the character of Iago to the audience. Through out the play Shakespeare uses dramatic irony he does this by making it blatantly obvious to the audience that Iago is the villain, where as Shakespeare has all of the other characters think that Iago is honest.

It is made obvious to the audience in many ways. Right from the opening scene, where the audience finds out how bitter he is. In his first soliloquy Shakespeare shows how he despises Othello for giving Cassio a promotion and not him. In this soliloquy Shakespeare makes him tell the audience how he is going to tell Othello and make it look like Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona.

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We also find out that he doesn't care for Rodrigo, he is just using him for money and to do his dirty work.

The reason he wants to destroy Othello is because he gave Cassio a promotion, who is younger than Iago, but Iago felt he should have got the promotion as he is older than Cassio and therefore more experienced. The fact that Shakespeare makes Cassio younger than Iago makes it much worse and harder for Iago to handle.

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Iago then starts to put his plan into action, starting by getting Cassio fired for fighting with Rodrigo. Shakespeare then makes Iago raise Othello's suspicion about Casio having an affair with Desdemona.

While all the time Iago plays innocent but still indirectly suggesting that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. After finally persuading Othello to believe him, Shakespeare makes Othello kill Desdemona. Emilia then clues together that Iago was behind all the treachery, but it is too late as Othello has already killed Desdemona. Because of this Iago kills Emilia who is his wife and then flees. Iago is then caught. Meanwhile because Shakespeare has made Othello a very proud character Shakespeare has Othello kill himself rather than live with the shame that has been brought to him through hiss actions.

Shakespeare then makes Cassio the Governor of Cyprus. One way we can tell how Shakespeare conveys Iago as a character is in Iago's soliloquies. If it was not for these soliloquies throughout the play revealing Iago's true character and intentions the play may be interpreted in a different way. The soliloquy I am going to concentrate on is in Act 2 Scene 3. The soliloquy comes directly after Cassio has got fired for fighting with Rodrigo, which was all a part of Iago's plan.

Iago starts by questioning how he could be called a villain but it is plainly obvious for the reader (when it is put in to context with the rest of Iago's actions, thoughts and motives) to see that Iago is not really being serious when he says this. We know this because Shakespeare makes him say: "And what's he then that says I play the villain. " This is slightly ironic because earlier Shakespeare had Cassio say: "Do not think I am drunk" when it is obvious that he is.

So this implies that Iago is mocking him which makes the audience dislike him even more, because not only is he doing malevolent things he is mocking the innocent people he is affecting with his actions. He carries on by saying that the advice he gives is free, honest and reasonable thinking, by saying: "When this advice is free I give, and honest, probal to thinking," But he also says that the advice he is giving is just to get Othello's trust, what he says is: "indeed the course to win the moor again? He then goes on and says: "For 'tis most easy th'inclining Desdemona to subdue in any honest suit. "

This suggests that he believes that it is very easy to mislead and manipulate Desdemona if you appeal to her sympathetic side, such as getting her to help someone else. He then goes on by saying that she is free to do what she pleases we know this because Iago says: " She's framed as fruitful as the free elements" Shakespeare here makes Iago use a simile which helps the reader understand what he is trying to say by having it in a more pictorial way.

He then says: "His soul is so enfettered to her love, that she make, unmake, do what she list, with his weak function" What Iago is saying here is that because Othello is so engrossed by Desdemona's love that she could do what she wants and get Othello to go along with it. I think that this is Iago's thoughts on what happens when you fall in love. I believe Shakespeare could be saying, through Iago that when you fall in love you are also blinded by that love for your lover.

He then repeats what he said at the start "How am I then a villain" and again questions how he is a villain. He then says that he is giving Cassio valid advice it just so happens that Cassio's course is going to collide with Othello's. He says that it is divine intervention but it is from hell. We know this because Iago says: "To counsel Cassio to this parallel course directly to his good? Divinity of hell! " He then says when evil people do evil things they disguise what they are about to do in a good way and that's what he is going too do now. When devils will the blackest sins put on, they do suggest at first with heavenly shows as I do now" He then says as Cassio gets Desdemona to try and get Cassio's job back and as she pleads to Othello to give Cassio his job back, he will be their implementing thoughts of Desdemona and Cassio having an affair into Othello's mind. Read Iago's Motives essay

"For whiles the honest fool plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes, and she for him pleads strongly to the Moor, I'll pour pestilence into his ear: that she repeals him for her body's lust" He then says: " And by how much she strives to do him good she shall undo her credit with the Moor. Here he is saying the more Desdemona tries to help Cassio the worse Othello shall think of her. He then finishes off the soliloquy by saying: "So will I turn her virtue into pitch, and out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all. " What he is saying here is that because of Desdemona trying to do good, everyone around her will be destroyed. It may be that we get to see a lot of Iago and hear about his plans, motives and thoughts but we never really get to now him as well as we think we do. Even though we get to know his feelings and thoughts in his few important soliloquies I think we are never totally convinced by Iago.

Although he claims that his bitter hatred has manifested due to the fact that Othello gave Cassio a promotion, later on in the play he says that he thinks that Othello has slept with his wife even though he has no valid proof. He also says that he lusts after Desdemona because he wants to get even with Othello "wife for wife". But I think that none of these reasons are very adequate for his deep hatred towards Othello. I also think that it isn't a coincidence that Shakespeare has made Othello a black man. In the time period this was wrote, coloured people were not thought of as equals but as a "lower class".

So it was hard for coloured people to be accepted as equals let alone a higher rank than others. So Othello being a coloured man who is higher in rank and status than Iago who is a white man must have hurt his pride and been to an extent humiliating for someone who appears to be headstrong. Also Othello being married to Desdemona who is a wealthy white girl, where as Iago is married to Emilia who is Desdemona's companion but seems not to be of the same stature of Desdemona's family. I think that Shakespeare makes Iago's main reason for hating Othello is because he is envious of him and Iago is racist.

Further evidence for Iago being racist towards Othello is that when Othello isn't around he uses derogative comments towards Othello such as: "Thick lips", "the old black man", "devil" are just some terms Iago uses to refer to Othello. Othello is different to other Shakespeare plays because it brings up the issue of whether the play is racist or not. I believe that the play is racist. I think that the main character Othello is very stereotyped. He is a black man who has done very well in the army since he was a very good solider so he has been promoted. This trait of his, contributes to him being a stereotype.

Also he is portrayed to have a very short temper, a big sense of pride and very gullible. Because of these things I believe that Shakespeare has used a stereotype for his main character. But what we have to consider is that at the time this was the common thought of most people in England. So it wouldn't have been seen to be wrong. But now people are more educated we know that it isn't fair to stereotype, as everyone is different. I think for the fact that we are reading the play at a different time when it was written the play seems to be out of context due to this it comes across as a slightly racist play.

Since Othello was intended to be a play, it is only appropriate that it be looked as a piece of drama to get a true representation of what Shakespeare intended when he wrote the play. The part of the play that I am concentrating on is the same part that I have already analysed. As it is a soliloquy it can be done in two ways. Either he is talking to himself and unaware of the audience, or he could be talking to the audience directly. I think Shakespeare intended Iago to be talking directly to the audience as he opens as if he has read the audiences mind and questions how he is a villain.

So it seems to me that Shakespeare creates a little bit of banter between the audience and Iago. When he does this I think that he could point at himself in a quizzical manner just to confirm what he is actually to saying. He then try's to justify his statement. As I think that he is talking to the audience naturally he would be facing the audience and maybe walking slowly up and down then stage to show that he is in thought, this would give him something to do which will make it a little bit easier to concentrate on him as it would be harder if he was to just stand there as it would be more boring.

He then carries on by talking about Desdemona and how she is framed as fruitful and how she is free as the elements. Here I think that Iago could actually make little signs with his hand showing what he is saying such as making a frame with hands when he talks about how she is framed as fruitful. He carries on and when he says all seals and symbols of redeemed sin he could make a symbol such as a cross or if he is wearing a cross on a necklace he could hold it or even make a cross sign with his hand.

Also when he again questions how he is a villain he could shrug suggesting that he is genuinely puzzled even though the audience knows he is not. When he comments about Cassio being on a parallel course he could make a gesture with his hands showing the parallel course Cassio is on. When Iago talks about pouring pestilence into Othello's ear he could pretend to be poring something. When he says: "so will I turn her virtue into pitch" he could get something white like a handkerchief and make it turn black, representing the transformation.

Then he could end it by holding his hand open and then slowing clenching his fist symbolising the net that shall enmesh them. Another way Shakespeare conveys the Character of Iago is by having different characters so that the audience can compare them and their actions. The person I am going to compare with Iago is going to be Othello. First of all Othello is black where as Iago isn't. In a normal situation in the time period this was wrote Othello would have been thought as a lesser man than Iago due to the racist manner of the time.

But because of Othello's position he is respected more, rather than if he wasn't as high up as he was. One way we can compare both of these characters is through their actions. Both of these characters kill their wives but for different reasons. Othello killed Desdemona because he thought she was having an affair with Cassio, but the reason he thought this was because of Iago's excellent manipulating skills. Iago killed his wife because she exposed him as the villain that was behind all of the treachery. This is the main thing Othello really does.

But Iago does far more as he steals money from his so called friend, Rodrigo. He plans to get fired which is successful. He plans to get either or both Rodrigo and Cassio killed. He gets Desdemona killed by Othello by convincing him that she is having an affair with Cassio. He also lies and deceives everyone around him including his wife Amelia. This conveys Iago as very evil, immoral and manipulative. Othello is conveyed as gullible, a very proud and a very masculine character. Another way you could get an idea of what the characters are like is by using the things others say about them.

From what others say about Othello we get the idea that he is a brave and honourable man who is well respected by others apart from Iago (who is bitter about Cassio getting a promotion rather than him and also suspects that Othello has slept with his wife), Rodrigo (who dislikes Othello as he wanted to marry Desdemona) and Brabantio (who is hostile towards Othello as he is a black man who has married his daughter with out his permission). But getting an image of Iago from other people is very misleading as Shakespeare makes many characters of his say that Iago is honest and honourable.

The reason Shakespeare does this is to show that Iago has mastered the art of deception and has put it into full effect. Soliloquies also show us a lot about the characters. In one of Othello's soliloquy he is wrestling with the thought of Desdemona cheating, his pride, his love and affection. Here we realise that all of these things mean a great deal to him and he finds it very difficult to priorities them. The reason being that Iago has implemented thoughts into Othello's mind such as that she has already deceived Brabantio and she could do it to him.

What confirms that Othello feels a lot for Desdemona is that he takes Desdemona having an affair very badly as he feel a lot for her, if he didn't react in this way it would have shown that their relationship really didn't mean much to him, also it would have been out of character. But Shakespeare making Othello the character he is it would only be natural that he couldn't put his love for Desdemona in front of the fact that she supposedly had cheated on him and this has damaged his pride and reputation, so the only option is to kill her.

Othello then get more worked up about it as the thought of Desdemona having an affair starts to eat him up and as a consequence he begins to loathe Desdemona. This consequents in him murdering Desdemona. Othello who had once been a very proud General had now had his primal exposed because of his fatal trust in Iago. All of these things present Othello as a stereotyped black man. But soon after he has realised that he has done the wrong thing we then see the Othello we are familiar with. As he immediately knows that he has done wrong and knows he can't undo it.

Again he is deeply hurt as he knows he has hurt the woman he loved for know fault of her own. Here we see the caring side of Othello. He then states that he cannot live with the shame of killing his wife and then kills himself. This again shows that he has a lot of pride. One reason I believe that Othello is such a proud man is that Shakespeare has made him a black man who has done well for himself considering the racist nature of the times. Iago's has a fair few soliloquies which all expose his true character. These soliloquies give the impression that he is evil, sly cunning, bitter and racist.

The reason he is bitter is due to his supposed motives, that Cassio got a promotion and he felt that he deserved it. Also he suspects Othello had slept with his wife. He is sly because he reveals lots of incriminating evidence such as he is only using Rodrigo for his money and all his plans to destroy Othello and Cassio. Also in his soliloquies he reveals his racist side as he uses derogative comments towards Othello such as: "thick-lips", "the Moore", "the old black ram", "devil" and many more. What is also revealed in his soliloquies when he reveals his plans is that he only thinks of himself.

He is conveyed like this as he doesn't take in account how his actions will effect everyone as he doesn't really care as long as he achieves what he intended to, its fine by him if someone gets hurt and they are innocent. An example is that he appeals to Rodrigo by appealing to his attraction towards Desdemona and then using him for his money and making him do all his dirty work. Also he makes his Amelia get the handkerchief for him. In Iago's soliloquies get a true insight to what his character is, which is manipulative, sly, bitter, immoral and evil. Overall Shakespeare uses a number of different ways to convey Iago's character.

But all give the same answers when put into context. Iago is a character that is very complex and clever, probably one Shakespeare's most complex and clever villains, because of this he intrigues the reader. It seems that he has the ability to say the right thing at the right time, which gives him control of the situation, therefore granting him power, something most people desire. His motives seem questionably and yet he is intent to carry out his evils deeds. He seems to have the same racist ideas as the public at the time. Although I can explore how Iago is conveyed, I think that I will never be able to understand such a complex villain.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Explore how Shakespeare Conveys the Charcter of Iago. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/explore-shakespeare-conveys-charcter-iago-new-essay

Explore how Shakespeare Conveys the Charcter of Iago essay
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