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The Nature of Evil in William Shakespeare’'s Othello Essay

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William Shakespeare’s Othello uses different and unique techniques in his language to express the nature of evil throughout the play. Verbal twists and the characters most importantly stress the act of evil. Iago, most of all is portrayed as the “villain” or “protagonist in the play. Shakespeare uses this character to set the basis of evil. Each plot point is spiraled further into tragedy due to the nature of Iago and his manipulative language towards the other main characters.

Corruption overcomes the Venetian society as Iago uses his crafty skills of deceit. The plan to have Othello turn against the ones he loves is the perfect example of evil’s nature. The power struggle is evident between these two. This situation is the start to Iago’s plan to corrupt the society and take Othello’s place. The root of Iago’s “evil” is jealousy indeed, in turn changing into a power hungry manipulator. Iago is tired of acting like one "courteous and knee-crooking knave" like he always appears to be [I. i. 46]. Since Iago is reluctant to choose to be a master, he is the servant that bites off the fame and "keep yet their hearts attending on themselves," still showing his service to his master but instead is more self-preserving with no attachments at all towards the master [I. i. 52]. Irony is used diligently in Shakespeare’s unique language style.

Referred by Othello as “honest Iago”, the irony is very evident in this title. Iago is everything but honest but this proves how easily led and manipulated Othello is. The traits Iago possess are unexpected to a normal villain. He comes across as charming and smart, he can also be referred to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. For example, he knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and figures that he ...


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...or a most attractive, popular, good-natured, charming, selfish, cold-blooded and utterly unscrupulous scoundrel.” (pp. 333-34) [Grant: Studies in Shakespeare, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886, pp. 205] This excerpt further explains Iago’s nature being exactly how Shakespeare intended yet a little different than what the average reader would think of him.

The nature of evil is strictly evident as the play comes to an end, yet it is viewed as an opinion or a theory whether Iago is truly “evil.” Ironically, Iago’s words speak louder than his actions, proving how legitimate Shakespeare’s use of language for the character was. This dynamic use of language is significant because it can alter the thought of the reader whether Iago was truly evil or just using military tactics to better him. Iago and his use of language set the main plot for every characters outcome.


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