Honest Iago of Shakespeare's Othello

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Honest Iago of Othello

To most of the world William Shakespeare is recognized as the greatest dramatist in history. His plays have been performed for centuries through various interpretations. Shakespeare's vast knowledge, and writing style made his works interesting for both the intellectual, and the illiterate. One of these styles is the use of motifs, which is seen extensively in Othello. An important example that runs throughout Othello, is Iago's honesty. This motif gave existence to Shakespeare's perfect villain.

The most interesting character in the play Othello is the villain, Iago, commonly referred to as "Honest Iago". Iago is smart, and well tuned to human behavior, and uses this knowledge to his advantage. He manipulates others to do things to help him reach his final goal; revenge on Othello and Cassio. His greatest tool in doing so is his reputation as an honest and trustworthy person. Othello believes Iago is a person "of exceeding honesty, and knows all qualities, with the learned spirit of human dealings." [Act III, Scene iii]. The other characters believe this as well, and Iago becomes a confidant for most of them.

The reputation Iago has, is encouraged by the other characters as well as himself. After Cassio and Roderigo fight, Othello arrives and Iago is the first that he asks an explanation from; " Honest Iago, that looks dead with grieving, speak. Who began this?" [Act II, scene iii]. Even after Iago would not answer, Montano tells Othello to ask Iago again; "Your officer, Iago, can inform you" [Act II, scene iii], knowing that Iago would speak the truth. Both Othello and Montano are intensifying Iago's integrity here.


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...aintain it, and encourage its existence.

In most stories, especially during Shakespeare's time, the villain is openly deceitful, and evil. Moreover, they are usually unattractive, and automatically disliked by the other characters. Shakespeare, in his brilliance, made Iago to be a charming, witty person, who is a friend to all. This was something unknown to the audience of his time. Shakespeare used this as a way of expressing an idea that anyone could have ulterior motives with their actions, and not to trust people with ease. He addressed the difference between reputation and a person's true character, and how they are rarely the same. In doing so, he created the most perfect villain of all of his works.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. Kenneth Muir. The New Penguin Shakespeare. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
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