An Analysis of Iago’s Characterization in “Iago’s Art of War: The “Machiavellian Moment” in Othello” by Ken Jacobsen
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As well, a Machiavellian villain is someone who can be categorized as duplicitous or deceitful. Jacobsen does not elaborate as fully on this point however, that is not to say there is no evidence in the play. Jacobsen does say that, “No ideal of civic virtue or social solidarity animates the innovator’s pursuit of power; he cares only to achieve “peculiar” or private ends, and he inﬂames the private resentments of the other characters, turning them against one another” (527). Iago rejects morality and is concerned only with achieving his goals to defeat Othello and displace Cassio. The reason he allows himself to remain subordinate to Othello is that, “In following him I follow but myself---- / Heaven is my judge, nor I for love or duty, / But for seeming so for my peculiar end” (1.1.60-62). He has little concern for who gets hurt in his pursuit of his own aims, going so far as to stab Roderigo and Emilia to protect himself. One of the ways he seeks to achieve this particular end is by telling opposite versions of the truth. In Act 1 Scene 2 Iago lies to Othello claiming that it was Brabantio and not himself that said those lewd things about him and Desdemona and behaves as though he had defended Othello and not Brabantio. Iago is duplicitous in the sense that his words directly contradict his actions. Iago admits that he seeks to, “Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me / For making him egregiously an ass / And practicing upon his peace and quiet” (2.1.310-312). Othello fully trusts Iago’s counsel despite the fact that he is the one responsible for his problems. Othello is not the only one subject to Iago’s deceit. Desdemona falls for it as well when Iago claims to have no knowledge of why Othello is so enraged with her. ...
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...g all the evidence, it is clear that Iago demonstrates numerous Machiavellian traits. He is strategic in the way he structures his delivery of information and in his timing. He is well-spoken and able to quickly devise convincing arguments. He is deceitful, using people against one another and pretending to be a loyal friend to disguise his own ambitions. Finally, he has a clear understanding of the psychology of other characters and the ability to manipulate this knowledge. While Iago may be a Shakespearean villain, he is undeniably Machiavellian as well.
Jacobsen, Ken. “Iago’s Art of War: The “Machiavellian Moment” in Othello.” Modern Philology Vol. 106. No. 3 (February 2009): 497-529. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Othello, the Moor of Venice. The Necessary Shakespeare. 4th Edition. Ed. David Bevington. Chicago: Pearson, 2012. 611-655. Print.