Shakespeare's Othello - The Character of Iago

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The Character of Iago

In Othello, by William Shakespeare, one of the most intriguing characters is Iago. At first glance he seems to be pure evil, but I think his actions are much more complex. Through thought-out words and actions Iago is able to manipulate others to do things that benefit him and move him closer to his goals. This character is consumed with envy and deceit that leads to theft and killing. Iago is the main driving force in this play, pushing Othello and the other characters towards their tragic endings.

Iago is not your ordinary villain. He is smart and an expert judge of people's character and uses this to his advantage. For example, he knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and figures Roderigo would do anything to have her as his own. Iago states, "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse." By playing on his hopes Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from Roderigo, making a substantial profit and making him a pawn in his plan. Iago is also quick on his feet and able to improvise when the unexpected occurs.

Being of smart mind, Iago is quick to recognize the advantages of trust, thus using it as a tool in forwarding his goals. Throughout the play he is often referred to and known as "honest Iago." He even states, "I am an honest man..." Trust is a powerful emotion that can easily be abused. As seen with Othello who, "holds (him) well/The better shall (Iago's) purpose work on him." Iago's use of his trust is greatly abused and beneficial only to him. His "med'cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught..." Iago slowly poisons people's thoughts, implanting ideas in their heads without implication to himself. Iago, a masterful deceiver, says, "And what's he t...

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...to be a person "of exceeding honesty, (who) knows all qualities, with learned spirit of human dealings." Iago does know all about human dealings, but he is far from honest. He uses the trust Othello puts into their friendship to turn him into a jealous man. Iago told Othello that his wife was cheating on him thus Othello thought he was killing for justice. He even said he "loved not wisely but too well." When the opportunity occurred Iago was lurking, waiting for the chance to take advantage of Othello. Iago succeeded in destroying all he sought out.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bradley, A.C. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice" The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stanley Wells & |Gary Taylor. New York/London, W.W. Norton Company,1997. 2100-2174
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