Understanding Iago Essay

Understanding Iago Essay

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Iago is a man who has been molded by his experiences. Shakespearean characters traditionally act merely as stock characters; they fulfill a role that is necessary to the story and they are merely characters created in the vacuum of that play. The action of the play and the circumstances surrounding the story dictate how characters act and respond to events. Interesting to Othello, each character is guided by their experiences outside of the play. What happened to them before the play started guides how they act within the play. This is especially true of Iago, who has been guided by his experiences outside the context of the story itself. The insecurities that plague him, the machinations he utilizes to manipulate other characters, the drive for control, all have been caused by his experiences outside of the play. And in fact, these experiences created his superobjective: to prove his worth in the world by regaining control of circumstances that he feels are working against him.
The first thing to understand about Iago is that he is not an evil person. If anything, Iago is the most genuinely sensitive and good character in the play. He is a highly introverted, inward looking seeker who doesn’t know how to establish himself in the world. He understands his independence, and in fact remarks upon it early in the play, saying, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him. / We cannot all be masters, nor all masters / Cannot truly be followed…” (I. i. 41-43). He knows that he is not a follower, but at the same time, he does not have the capacity that Othello has for inspiring others to follow him. He has something he genuinely wants to say, independent from the established social order of the era. This causes him significant insecurities...


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...tes when he is successful. Iago has spoken the most throughout the play, and he has had the most to do, the most manipulations and influences on his world, and yet, after he is done, he states it with finality. “Demand me nothing. What you know, you know / From this time forth I never will speak a word” (V. ii. 303-304). He is finished, his plan is complete, and he leaves the play on that note; with no answers, no sense of closure, just a declarative statement of the completion of his purpose. And he makes little attempt to justify what he has done, when he is given the chance to reveal how hurt he was by the severity of circumstance. “I told him what I thought, and told no more / Than what he found himself was apt and true” (V. ii. 187-188). And this is, in a way, what makes Iago the most compelling character of the play. He fights the law, and in a sense, he won.

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