During this most recent semester we, as a class, have waded through a sufficient sampling of works by the good bard. During this experience, a plethora of characters have successfully held the spotlight, evoked aspects of the nature of man, and twisted the extremes of human emotions into knots. By retreating to ponder these noble souls and most horrid villains, one immediately recognizes a character worthy of more close examination is the dastardly and enigmatic puppeteer culpable for the tragic finale of Othello. Iago, or more ironically, "honest Iago," as he is called, is complex role to be considered for two principal reasons. Primarily, because the depth of his character is somewhat endless, but also because when we contrast him with other main antagonists throughout other Shakespearean efforts, some interesting insights can be revealed. Stemming from said contrasts involving Iago, we immediately begin to shift our thoughts to the apparent differences between antagonists within the Shakespeare. This brings us to the pressing issue of do we consider Iago to be the most complete antagonist? Is he the bard's most complete depraved creation, or just an assemblage, or mosaic of previous more one-sided evil doers?
When beginning to flesh out the skeleton of Iago's character, it must be first understood that he is not the admitted and obvious opponent of the tragic hero. Iago is a hidden antagonist, or rather he disguises his intentions within the actions or deeds others. He manipulates and "plays" other characters (pardon the pun) showing the reader that he values others as if they were tools available to be used for achieving his own ends, or pawns in a game center...
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...s from all aspects of Iago's character. Oddly, the Merchant of Venice comes midway through the Poetic period which falls before the Tragic period, and in some ways we could consider it a transitional work because of its obvious similarities and stark differences.
Either way, whether we consider above chronological significance or not, there is certain thread constantly reminiscent of Iago running throughout these plays which cannot be denied. Thus Iago, and all the horrible splendor surrounding him, must certainly fall into the category of Shakespeare's greatest and most complex villains. Hopefully, if nothing more, examination of these characters will help us to avoid calling out, as Cassio did for the very enemies who have created our unfortunate situations. In Act 5, Scene 1, we hear Cassio say "Iago! I am spoil'd, undone by villains! / Give me some help!"
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