The essay is a critical examination of the character of Iago in the play Othello written by Shakespeare. In literature there is always a direct link between characterization and theme development. Othello deemed to be written in 1603 revolves around four main characters; Iago Othello, Desdemona wife to a Moorish general, Cassio and the general. The themes of the play are honesty, love, misrepresentation, self knowledge, magic, racism, oppression, pride, appearance and reality, revenge, betrayal and jealousy.
For instance, in case of honesty Iago is termed “honest” racism is depicted when Othello is termed “the black with thick lips.” Most of Shakespeare readers have painted Iago to be the most heinous and villain character of all time. He is capable of manipulating those around him propelling him to achieve his desires. For this reason, he is a character that is most loved to hate.
Additionally he is the most purely malevolent character engaging in most wrongdoings. To under stand the characters of Iago, it would be rational to clearly define the term character; in literature it has been thought of as the attributed or characteristics given to subjects used in a play, poem, novels, playwrights as well as other literature by the author to help pass across or communicate certain themes.
It is ironical that Iago is referred to as honest person. A closer examination of his deeds and motives paint him another character.
However, majority of other characters are not yet aware of his deceitful and selfish character. Due to this almost all characters are in a crisis of determining who and who not to trust. Most trust the wrong person, Iago which lead to downfall of various characters. For instance Othello said “…my ancient; a man he is of honesty and trust. To this conveyance I assign my wife” (Shakespeare 199) in reference to Iago. It is worth mentioning here that it is this attributes that he possessed that made him successful in manipulating other characters painting him to be a strong and compelling character. Through it, he is capable of convincing Othello that his wife Emilia had and a fair.
This was accomplished by him taking a handkerchief using it as evidence. It is worth noting that being a solder and always siding with Othello, Iago turns out to be a trusted advisor to Othello. From the on set of the play, Iago complains that Cassio unfairly was promoted instead of him, due to this he plans to make both Cassio and Othello pay for this. He proclaimed himself to be an honest and trustworthy person, “Touch me not so near. / I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth / than it should do offense to Michael Cassio; Yet I persuade myself to speak the truth / shall nothing wrong him.” (Shakespeare 263).Thus everything he said seemed to be thought to be nothing but the truth.
Another major character that makes audiences love to hate him is being vengeful. It is apparent from the onset of the play that intends to revenge against anybody for instance Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia among others. He seems to gain pleasure when others are undergoing pain as well as damage as results of his actions.
He first made Othello believe that his wife Desdemona had a love affair with Cassio. Iago did this by manipulating his wife (Emilia) wittily to take a handkerchief given to Desdemona by Othello, once in his possession; he told Othello that he had seen it being possessed by Cassio. To prove things beyond doubt, with great skill, he arranged a conversation between Cassio and Bianca and carefully position Othello so that he thinks Cassio is discussing his wife. Additionally, in Act I, Scene III “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father and may thee.” (Shakespeare 194) Warns Brabantino, this statement is used by Iago to remind Othello that his wife’s father said she might betray him.
Additionally, his manipulative characteristic is depicted when convinced Roderigo a friend to side with him. Iago uses his deceitful and treacherous character in making the later hold the opinion that after making Othello go, he will win the affection of Desdemona, Othello’s wife only when he supports his plans which he did not decline. It is no doubt that Iago is a jealous individual. This coupled with the fact that he has desire for fellow men make him hate women.
This can this be attributed to the fact that he killed his own wife. Additionally, he is not happy considering the fact that he is passed in ranks. For this he carries a heavy heart and promises to revenge which he eventually did. This was accomplished when he plan a fight between his ally Roderigo and Cassio; he took the chance to kill Cassio on the basis that the victim double crossed his friend. The character of jealous is what mainly drove him to be vengeful. Iago can also be as not being very creative.
Although he managed to put on a face of ‘honesty’ he failed to change tact when things seemed work against him. His downfall can be attributed to sticking to his plans despite the fact that it was obvious that he was not capable of seeing his own destruction and if he could see, it seemed that he just ignored it “Dull not device by coldness and delay” (Shakespeare 231). Iago is also seen to be a funny character. In this scene, Iago can be said to have winked at the audiences while revealing his wits, skills and knowledge of manipulation.
Lastly and more importantly, although Iago looked to be scheming person who is not a coward, towards the end of the play, he is seen as being a coward. Killing his wife manifests this.
From the review of the character of Iago in the play Othello by Shakespeare, it is evident that he is the one character that ‘successfully’ plays the villain and most of the audiences and readers would love to hate him. Among the characters that clearly define Iago are; he is vengeful jealous, funny, ‘honest’, manipulative, coward and lacks creativity. For instance he failed seeing his own downfall and change tact, he went an extra mile making others suffer or completely damaged.
Using his deceitful skills he destroys the relationship between Othello and his wife, kills Cassio for his own selfish interest, and kills his wife. It is definitely through him that we Shakespeare manages to bring out various themes such as revenge, jealous and betrayal.
Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. New York: Bantam Books, 1988. Print.