Shakespeare's Iago is a superhuman figure, a superb artist in evil

Categories: ArtistsShakespeare

Shakespeare’s Iago is a very sophisticated and unpredictable character. He is part vice and is a very deceitful and evil character. We see him as a character who tempts mankind into performing devilish conducts. This is why he is almost certainly known as inherently evil. There is a suggestion that Shakespeare’s Iago is a cold-blooded creature because of motiveless plots, but we are however offered a number of reasons for his plots and plans.

Like many Shakespearean villains, he is quick to improvise and he carries out his evil procedures using materials he has at hand e.

. Desdemona’s handkerchief. Many questions arise when discussing about Iago; what motivates him? What lies beneath the corrupted surface? We might also question his understanding and self-knowledge. Nevertheless, we do know that professional jealousy is the reason for disgracing Cassio. Iago admits that he is envious of the ‘daily beauty’ in Cassio’s life. He also believes that Cassio has committed adultery with his wife, Emilia.

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He despises Othello because of suspicion that Othello has “twixt my sheets… ” and holds a grudge against Othello for promoting Cassio over him.

It transpires from a conversation that Othello, a brave and well-respected general in the Venetian army, has promoted a close friend of his, Cassio to the position of lieutenant. Iago feels that he should have been given the promotion and resolves to bring about the downfall of both the general and lieutenant. Additionally, the first time we hear of Othello in the play is through the eyes of his enemy.

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Iago degrades those he despises. He has low opinion of women and foreigners, which could possibly suggest his evil actions on Othello and how he uses Desdemona’s characteristics to exploit the others.

Like Othello, Iago is extremely proud, but his pride is filled with bitter cruelty while Othello is more generous and open natured. Iago is also egotistical and independent, which features help him in his deceitful pursuit. An important facet of his characteristics is that he is able to adapt his tone and style to suit any situation. He revels in his ability to make other characters believe that he is loyal and trustworthy. He adopts a sympathetic tone and attitude when dealing with Desdemona, while with Cassio he is more rude and discourteous.

In Act 1 Scene 1, we clearly see Iago constantly telling Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, what she is up to. He is giving the impression that a big, wild and ‘Barbary horse’ is smothering his white princess. Notice the imagery of a ‘Barbary horse’ being used to refer to Othello. Shakespeare’s Iago is cruelly emphasizing Othello as an animal with large sexual organs. It is mainly from Iago’s depictions of Othello that we so far have a terrible description and image of the Moor in our minds.

We do know that Iago carries out his plans merely out of spite, but some critics have suggested that Iago may have homosexual feelings towards Othello. Although this is perceptibly debatable, this suggestion makes us wonder as to how far we know Iago. He does not evidently inform us of his nature and characteristic. All we learn from him is of his incinerating plans and plots against Cassio and Othello. It is Iago’s ability and skill to deceive others that primarily sets him into fulfilling his treacherous quest.

Iago only speaks to his wife nicely when he thinks that she has something for him e. g. the handkerchief. Otherwise, his tone is cold and contemptuous, “A good wench, give it to me. ” Gradually in the play, we see Iago slowly taking control of Othello; so successfully that Othello even begins to think and speak like the sinful Iago. He progressively corrupts the mind and spirit of the valiant Moor and makes the general believe that he is loyal, liberal, honest and honourable, which is ironically Othello’s best qualities.

In Act 2 Scene 3, we see Iago seemingly concerned of the outcome of a fight between Cassio and Montano. It is here that Iago deceived Othello into believing that he is indeed an honest man. His show of reluctance to describe Cassio’s involvement in the brawl made Othello think that he is valiant, “Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter, making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I love thee. ” There are ideas that Iago portrays a vague image of a puppet master. Iago’s role-playing with the different characters allows him to control his victims’ fates.

An example of his control of others takes place in Act 5 Scene 1, when Iago persuades him to eavesdrop on his conversation with Cassio. Othello is not only being told what to do, but he is also being told to look at Cassio’s gestures. It also appears that Iago is an ambitious and effective storyteller. The description of the night he spent sharing a bed with Iago, witnessing Cassio’s possible dream about Desdemona, in Act 3 Scene 3 echoes through the Moor’s mind. Gradually, Othello becomes angered by it and this slowly deteriorates his confidence and trust of Cassio and Desdemona.

Another wretched ‘puppet’ of Iago’s would be Roderigo. He is oblivious of the deceitful devil, Iago. He accuses iago of deceiving him, “Your words and performance are no kin together. ” This is a wonderful and alarming irony as the foolish Roderigo speaks the truth without even realising it. Roderigo is gullible and a ‘simpleton’. He has poor judgement and these flaws made him a target of Iago’s. He does however become suspicious of Iago but still manages to get himself talked around. We see Roderigo as basically a tool that Shakespeare’s Iago uses to achieve his plots and plans.

It is often implied that Iago does not fully understand those around him. Some say that he recognises others’ virtues and qualities, but see them as weaknesses. The use of imagery in Othello is to establish the dramatic atmosphere of the play. We see Iago as inherently evil and there are associations of him with the images of hell and the devil. In his soliloquy at the end of Act 1 Scene 3, he outlines his intentions when he says “Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light. ” It also seems that he revels in the fact that he is dishonest and malevolent.

He even vows to make Desdemona’s life a living hell and promises to wreak vengeance on her. There are numerous references to animal in the play. Most of the animal imageries primarily suggest how much Iago hate his victims. He described Othello and Desdemona as “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. ” Iago is confident, independent and believes that the Moor will eventually be “tenderly led by th’nose as asses are. ” Throughout Othello, we feel that we are close to him in a sense. Due to his uses of soliloquies, we are able to somehow feel connected and not necessarily in a good manner.

However, he, by some means eludes us at the end of the play when he refuses to speak. This then leads us to make sense that perhaps the “demi-devil” is not truly diminished. When he declines to speak at the end of Othello, we get an impression that it is not entirely the end of Iago, as we do not witness any act of regret or possibly suffering. Our final and general knowledge of Shakespeare’s Iago is that he succeeded in demolishing the life and marriage of the valiant Moor and Desdemona as well as his wife, Emilia and Roderigo.

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Shakespeare's Iago is a superhuman figure, a superb artist in evil. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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