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Shakespeare's Othello - Troubled Iago

Powerful Essays
Troubled Iago

Unquestionably the most perfidious character within the cast of Shakespeare’s Othello is the cunning Iago. He spends his life, it would seem, taking revenge on the general and destroying nearly everyone around himself.

Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” elaborates on Iago’s exact function and place in the play:

. . . Iago ruins Othello by insinuating into his mind the question, ‘How do you know?’ The tragic experience with which this play is concerned is loss of faith, and Iago is the instrument to bring Othello to this crisis of his being. His task is made possible by his being an old and trusted companion, while husband and wife are virtually strangers, bound only by passion and faith; and by the fact that great joy bewilders, leaving the heart apt to doubt the reality of its joy. The strange and extraordinary, the heroic, what is beyond nature, can be made to seem the unnatural, what is against nature. This is one of Iago’s tricks. (143)

Iago’s very language reveals the level at which his evil mind works. Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” describes the types of base, loathsome imagery used by the antagonist Iago when he “slips his mask aside” while awakening Brabantio:

Iago is letting loose the wicked passion inside him, as he does from time to time throughout the play, when he slips his mask aside. At such moments he always resorts to this imagery of money-bags, treachery, and animal lust and violence. So he expresses his own faithless, envious spirit, and, by the same token, his vision of the populous city of Venice – Iago’s “world,” as it has been called. . . .(132)

Iago is the “perfect” bad guy in the sense that his type is just what ...

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...is. “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare: The Pattern in His Carpet. N.p.: n.p., 1970.

Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.
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