Iago's Mind in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

Iago's Mind in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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Iago's Mind in William Shakespeare's Othello


In Shakespeare’s play Othello, the character of Iago takes on the role of a person warped within his own thoughts and feelings. Although people today have the benefit of psychology, back in the 1600s people with severe psychological disorders were left un-medicated and free to roam as citizens of society. Although Iago would have benefited from medication of today, in his mind he was the best, even though his own imagination got the better of him and fed his own misguided mentality. One of the best examples of this warped mentality is a conversation which Iago has with Othello mid-way through the play (3.3.160-66). As one analyzes Iago’s words, the depth and complexity of his mental unrest ooze between the lines of this speech. And after careful analysis of the complexity of Iago’s thoughts in this speech, Iago’s psychological shortcomings of conceit and self-worth unravel before our eyes.

At first glance, as Iago starts to verbally protect his reputation in the eyes of Othello, who has accused Iago of “…conspir[ing] against thy friend…” (3.3.147), Iago appears to be speaking of the nature of his reputation. But the lines can be analyzed on a much deeper level. When Iago says, “Good name in man and woman, dear my Lord…” (3.3.160), the obvious first impression is that he is issuing the beginning of a statement about his own reputation. But, deep within the layers, this statement can be seen as a start in expressing how Iago feels about Othello having taken his reputation as a man and smashed it in the public eye. Iago mentions early in the play that, “…it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets / He has done my office” (1.3.369-70). By this earlier statement we s...


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...y as a man, Iago ploys, “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit / and lost without deserving” (2.3.251-52). Hence, we wonder, was Iago speaking of Othello, or Cassio? Or both?

Within this albeit short speech we get a strong glimpse at how tangled the web of Iago’s mind can be. We get a feel for the depth of his psychological unrest and see how his mind can wrap quickly his feelings from one person to another in one quick jump of phrases. In these seven short lines we see Iago’s self-concern about how others perceive him, we see his own fixation on how great he sees himself, and we see how he deceives himself. For me, Iago’s psychosis intrigues me to read this play again and again since, on a very basic level, most of us can probably see parts of Iago within ourselves, no matter how deep within ourselves we have to look.

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