Heroes and Villains: Iago and the Extent of Human Potential in Shakespeare’s Othello

:: 5 Works Cited
Length: 1649 words (4.7 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Blue      
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The character of Iago has traditionally been viewed as the most infamous villain in all of Shakespeare. The conniving ringmaster of the tragedy of Othello, Iago serves as a necessary catalyst for the action of the play. He takes such a principal role in the drama that the play has commonly been described as Othello’s tragedy, but Iago’s play. Scholars have disagreed, however, as to whether or not Iago can simply be described as an ingenious villain lacking all regard for morality. Many have seen some of his most inhuman or evil qualities as the very thing that makes him human; others have attributed his manipulative ambition to a deep-seeded psychological need to belong and have drawn clear parallels between Iago and the play’s tragic hero, Othello. Clearly there is more to Iago than a simple lack of a moral compass. In the process of becoming the vehicle for the tragic actions of the play, Iago also brings about his own downfall. He is the second tragic figure of Othello, and the undoings of both Iago and Othello demonstrate both the extents and limits of human potential as well as Shakespeare’s implication that no single man can ever be greater than the world around him.
Although it is counter-intuitive to say that one of drama’s greatest antagonists is actually one of its tragic figures, Iago fits much of the criteria for a tragic hero in a Shakespearean play. According to A.C. Bradley, a Shakespearean tragedy brings about the downfall of “an exceptional being,” a man or woman who demonstrates extraordinary capabilities and whose greatest attribute, or tragic flaw, is also the most significant cause of his or her death (“The Substance of Shakespearean Tragedy” 3154). Iago constantly demonstrates exceptional cunning and skills...

... middle of paper ...

... 7.2 (Jan. 1918): 349-359. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Mark W. Scott. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Mar. 2012. .
Maginn, William. "Iago." The Shakespeare Papers of the Late William Magin, LL.D. Ed. Shelton Mackenzie. Redfield, 1856. 155-170. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Mark W. Scott. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Mar. 2012. .
Newton, K.M. "Othello: Overview." Reference Guide to English Literature. Ed. D. L. Kirkpatrick. 2nd ed. Chicago: St. James Press, 1991. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 4 Feb. 2012. .
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Fifth Ed. Robert DiYanni. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. 1307-1392.

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Jealousy in Villains of Different Works Essay - Jealousy, it is what gets the best and, of course, the worst of people. Iago in Shakespeare's play "Othello" is one of the worst villains out there. Other villains, such as Scar in Disney's "The Lion King", Jafar in Disney's "Aladdin", and Mother Gothel from Disney's "Tangled" have closely related motives and jealous personalities. All four betray and kill for reasons they believe are going to further the lives they intend to lead after their master plans. The stem of the jealousy roots from never having enough power and feeling inferior....   [tags: Othello, Scar, Gothel]
:: 9 Works Cited
1841 words
(5.3 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
The Antagonists Iago in Othello by William Shakespeare Essay example - The Antagonists Iago in Othello by William Shakespeare During this most recent semester we, as a class, have waded through a sufficient sampling of works by the good bard. During this experience, a plethora of characters have successfully held the spotlight, evoked aspects of the nature of man, and twisted the extremes of human emotions into knots. By retreating to ponder these noble souls and most horrid villains, one immediately recognizes a character worthy of more close examination is the dastardly and enigmatic puppeteer culpable for the tragic finale of Othello....   [tags: Papers] 2938 words
(8.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Manipulations of Othello in William Shakespeare's Play - Manipulations of Othello in William Shakespeare's Play One of the main themes running through Othello is jealousy. Othello's jealousy for Desdemona and Bianca's for Cassio. The catalyst for this jealously though is Iago's manipulation of the characters and their own failure to communicate and trust one another over Iago. These massive doses of jealousy lead to death and the downfall of the hero of the play. On the surface it seems like Iago is the cause of this, so why does the audience often feel empathy towards Iago, and even enjoy his clever manipulations....   [tags: Papers] 484 words
(1.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay Othello, Cassio, and Iago - Seeing is Believing Proof is something that all human beings seek. Without proving something in order for it to be valid we would have nothing to tell us when something is false. Everyday people use proof as a part of reason; it has been used to turn a hypothesis into a theory, a rumor into fact, without proof we would have nothing. There are many different ways to prove something, some more affective than others; having a person simply tell you something is true or false does not always do the job, but in simplistic matters it may be all they have to work with....   [tags: Othello, Cassio, Iago] 1891 words
(5.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Analysis of Othello's Iago, The Perfect Villain - How does one create the perfect villain for a story. What qualities are needed in such a character. A good place to start when constructing a villain is to look at William Shakespeare’s villain in Othello, a man called Iago. Iago is wonderfully devious. Throughout the play, he not only poisons Othello’s vision of Desdemona, he does this with no one, excepting Roderigo, the wiser. There are several reasons that make Iago such a terrifying villain. Shakespeare gave certain qualities to his creation that made Iago more than just a evil character....   [tags: William Shakespeare, Othello]
:: 1 Works Cited
784 words
(2.2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on Iago Of Othello - Iago of "Othello" What makes a good villain. What qualities make one villain stand out from another. Is it their demeanor, ruthlessness, or the methods that they employ to accomplish their tasks. In any case, a great villain must leave the reader with a respect for their methods and a question about their motives. In Shakespeare's Othello, there is one character in Iago that fulfills all of these qualifications. Iago is a wonderful villain because he gains other's trust, relentlessly takes advantage of his peers' flaws, and unapologetically causes the deaths of his counterparts in order to achieve his goals....   [tags: Character Analysis Othello Iago Shakespeare] 701 words
(2 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Iago in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay - Iago in William Shakespeare's Othello William Shakespeare, born: 1564 died: 1616, is considered one of the greatest writers who has ever lived. He had a unique way of putting things into words. All of his plays, sonnets, and poems have gotten great recognition. But when Shakespeare wrote Othello he created one of the most controversial villains of all times; Iago. He is best described as disturbing, ruthless, and amoral. No other character can even come close to his evil (Iago: The 1). Iago, in the play Othello, is a very intriguing villain....   [tags: William shakespeare Othello Iago Essays] 1219 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay about The Character of Iago from Othello - The Character of Iago from Othello The character of Iago is crucial for the play, and its essence has often been presented as ‘the evil taking a human form.’ What is important to any attempt to understand this play is the mechanism that makes the action moving forward. If this is ‘the force of evil’, represented in the character of Iago, this gives him the most relevant role, the power to forward the entire course of the play in certain direction. A number of fortunate circumstances helps his plot, and even in the most dangerous moments everything seems to fit his plans....   [tags: Othello William Shakespeare Iago Plays Essays] 4193 words
(12 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Iago of William Shakespeare's Othello - Iago of William Shakespeare's Othello Who is Iago. Iago poisons people's thoughts, creating ideas in their heads without implicating himself. His first victim is Roderigo. 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, professing that ". . . I do hate [the Moor] as I do Hell pains." [Act I, Scene I, Line 152] He tells Roderigo to "Put money in thy purse" [Act I, Scene III, Line 328] so that he can win Desdemona with gifts....   [tags: Iago William shakespeare Othello Essays] 1540 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Iago as the Perfect Villain of Shakespeare's Othello Essay - Iago as the Perfect Villain of Othello      Iago, the villain in Shakespeare’s Othello, is a round character of great depth and many dimensions. Iago works towards an aim that is constantly changing and becomes progressively more tragic. Yet, at times, "honest" Iago does actually seem honest. This essay will explore the complex character of "honest Iago. One of the most interesting questions that crops up is concerning Iago’s motives. What are his reasons to kill every major Venetian in Cyprus....   [tags: Othello essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
1432 words
(4.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]