Iago: One of Shakespeare's Most Misunderstood Villains

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Iago is one of the most misunderstood villains in Shakespeare literature. We side with Othello from the start because his name is on the cover of our paperback, we read Othello when learning about heroes, so we expect Iago to be a villain, a ruthless manipulator. We don’t know why, he doesn’t state it plainly or in simple English, so we assume that he’s evil, that he’s just a disgruntled sociopath out to exact his exaggerated revenge on good and noble Othello. Iago’s misunderstood reputation is a result of not truly examining his character, and answering the “why” factor behind his actions. After all, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. His goal in the play was not just to destroy Othello for the fun of it. His objective, rather, was to bring justice to the wrongs done to him by Othello. Denied from the job he had worked his entire life for, Shakespeare’s Iago set out to demonstrate what happened when personal friendship was put over merit, and to prove that a servant is not merely someone to order around- a servant is a capable man too. Serving as Othello’s right hand man for many years, Iago believed that he would be the chosen one for the position as Othello’s lieutenant. When Cassio was chosen, Iago couldn’t understand why Othello made that choice. So he set out to seek justice on the one who wronged him: “good” and “noble” Othello. The relationship between master and servant is, ideally, one where the two can talk and respect each other, all based on a foundation of trust. This was the relationship of Iago and Othello prior to their drama (no pun intended). There needed to be some sort of trusting relationship between the two, perhaps even a friendship, before Iago betrayed Othello. They fought together ... ... middle of paper ... ...rom this time forth I will never speak a word.” (V.ii.303-304) By silencing himself, Iago is also proving to Othello that perhaps he is not the great pious hero that everyone believes him to be. Othello took an ambiguous piece of information and spun this great fantasy out of it, convincing himself that Desdemona was sleeping with Cassio. Rather than questioning Desdemona, Othello believed only a small rumor. Othello’s fall into Iago’s trap can only be blamed on Othello for blindly following such an ambiguous statement; “I told him what I thought and told no more/ Then what he found himself was apt and true” (V.ii.187-188). Whether or not Iago hoped to gain anything from his actions is still questionable. However, Iago was successful in destroying Othello, emotionally and finally physically, achieving his objective of bringing justice to himself, the victim.

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