character Analysis of Iago in "Othello"Shakespeare's "Othello, The Moor of Venice" is a play of deception and
trickery. There are several important characters, however there is one who
is particularly interesting. Iago (a villain) is perhaps one of the most
interesting characters. Iago is a dynamic character that takes on several
roles. He is known as an honest trustworthy friend but is actually a
manipulative deceptive snake that is only looking out for his own
interests. Iago is able to manipulate others into do things that only
benefit him. He is the main driving force in this play, pushing Othello
and others towards their tragic end.
Iago is not your ordinary villain. The role he plays is rather unique
and complex. Iago is smart and is an excellent judge characters and he
uses this to his advantage. For example, he knows Roderigo is in love with
Desdemona and figures that he would do just about anything to have her.
Iago says about Roderigo, "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse." Act I,
Scene III, Line 362 By playing on his hopes of getting Desdemona, Iago is
able to con money and jewels from Roderigo, making himself a substantial
profit. Iago is a quick thinker and is able to improvise whenever
something unexpected happens. When Cassio takes hold of Desdemona's hand
before the arrival of the Moor Othello, Iago says,
"With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio."
Act II, Scene I, Line 164 Because he is so cunning and crafty he is
truly a dastardly villain.
Due to his intelligence, Iago is quick to recognize the advantages
that trust creates and uses it as a tool to manipulate and accomplish his
goals. Throughout the play he is commonly known as, "Honest Iago." He
even says of himself, "I am an honest man...." Act II, Scene III, Line
239 Trust is a very powerful emotion that is easily abused and Iago is
one that was able to manipulate people's trust.Iago is a master of
turning people's trust into tools that he can use against them in order to
achieve his own goals.Iago manipulates people's thoughts, and creates
ideas in their heads and is able to do all this without implicating
himself. "And what's he then that says I play the villain, when this
advice is free I give, and honest," Act II, Scene III, Line 289 says
Iago. Thus, people rarely stop to consider the possibility that Iago could
be deceiving or manipulating them, after all, he is "Honest Iago."
Iago makes a fool out of Roderigo. In fact, the play starts out with
Iago having taken advantage of him already. Roderigo remarks, "That thou,
Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine." Act I, Scene I,
Line 2 Throughout the play, Iago leads Roderigo to believe that he
"hate(s) the Moor" Act I, Scene III, Line 348 and telling Roderigo to
"make money" Act I, Scene III, Line 352 so that he can buy gifts to give
to Desdemona in hopes to win her over. During the play however, Iago is
keeping the gifts that Roderigo intends for Desdemona for himself.
Roderigo eventually starts to question Iago's honesty, saying "I think it
is scurvy, and begin to find myself fopped in it." Act IV, Scene II, Line
198 When faced with this allegation, Iago simply tells Roderigo that
killing Cassio will aid his cause and Roderigo believes him. "I have no
great devotion to the deed, and yet he has given me satisfying reason,"
Act V, Scene I, Line 8 says Roderigo. And because of this action,
Roderigo is lead to his death by the hands of "Honest Iago."
Cassio, like Roderigo, follows Iago, thinking that Iago is only trying
to be a friend and help him. However, during this time, Iago is planning
the termination of Cassio. On the night of Cassio's watch, Iago persuades
him to take another drink, knowing very well that he would become very
drunk. Cassio follows along anyway, though he says, "I'll do't, but it
dislikes me." Act II, Scene III, Line 36 However, Iago is able to make
him defy his own reasoning and Cassio takes another drink. When Roderigo
follows through with the plan Iago, Cassio is made to look like an
irresponsible dupe, resulting in his termination as lieutenant. After this
incident, Iago sets another one of his plans into action by telling Cassio
to beg Desdemona to help him, saying, "she holds it a vice in her goodness
not to do more than she is requested." Act II, Scene III, Line 278
Cassio is set on a dark path, which could only lead to trouble and
mischief. Yet, Cassio follows it without question telling Iago, "You
advise me well." Act II, Scene III, Line 282 Cassio is eventually led
into a trap where Roderigo maims him, and Iago - his friend - is behind it
Iago is capable of anything, not even Othello is safe from his
deception. Othello believes Iago to be a close friend and an advisor. He
believes Iago to be a person, "of exceeding honesty, who knows all
qualities, with learned spirit of human dealings." Act III, Scene III,
Line 275 Yes, he does know all about human dealings, but no he is not
honest. He uses the trust Othello puts in him to turn Othello eventually
into a jealous man.
Iago is truly a unique and complex character in this play where
people are not as they seem. Iago used this status as "honest" and the
role of friend to manipulate the other characters into doing this dirty
work in hopes to achieve his own goals. Iago also realizes the ability to
use trust to accomplish his goals. Because of this he is able to gain
trust of the characters then use that trust to make them blindly follow his
every demand, thus achieving success at accomplishing his goals.