For all that Iago is acting out of hatred, there is much for the audience to enjoy in the cleverness of the manipulations of Othello
“For all that Iago is acting out of hatred, there is much for the audience to enjoy in the cleverness of the manipulations of Othello. Discuss.”
We first meet the character of Iago during conversation with his associate Roderigo; from which, we interpret him to be unethical in the manner of his speech. We can determine that Iago is heated by Cassio’s promotion as Othello’s deputy from the use of language and punctuation used. “‘Sblood, but you will not hear me.
If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.” The first impression of Iago is important as throughout the play ‘Othello’, we witness more outbursts of this malicious nature from Iago, which he in turn uses cunningly to influence certain people and their actions.
I feel that without the character of Iago and his spiteful ways, there would be no tension or interest in the play. He is the catalyst to every fabricated accusation; only the audience has knowledge of this, keeping Iago the most captivating character within ‘Othello’.
Critics have also stated the character of Iago to be Shakespeare’s finest, yet others consider him to be subordinate to others.
Although Iago has the ability to alter other character’s opinions and thoughts, he often leaves the matter with them to deal with, and so it can be argued that Iago plays no role in issues such as Desdemona’s death as Iago doesn’t carry out the deed himself. Consequently, Iago uses other people to finish his dirty work and so cannot be as devilish as we may think.
Clearly, Iago has an issue with Othello, as noted when speaking to Roderigo. “Now sir, be judge yourself Whether I in any just term am affined To love the Moor.”…”I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” Iago tells his companion, Roderigo, that he sees no reason why he should respect Othello and serve him justly, that he follows him purely to later seek revenge. Maybe Iago is following the proverb ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ By doing so he could define a way to impair Othello as hoped and announced.
During this conversation, Roderigo is blinded by Iago to listen to his troubles, rather than his own. Roderigo initially raises the point that his ally Iago has been thieving money as if it were his own, clearly looking for an answer. Changing the subject is commonly used to avoid such confrontations as demonstrated here by Iago, creatively using his manipulative skills, undetected by Roderigo.
Another skill established inside Iago is his connoisseur like properties when using and choosing his words. “Put money in thy purse” is repeated a number of times to Roderigo, implying a double meaning. This phrase could be seen in an innocent sense, but the audience, knowing the ‘real’ side of Iago, the manipulative, cunning side would view these words in a different light; the way Shakespeare intends them to be interpreted.
We, as the audience, can eagerly argue that Roderigo is weak and blind to the influence of Iago, but in a real world, Iago’s actions would easily be undetected, much the way they are by the characters concerned in ‘Othello’.
Desdemona and Othello’s marriage is announced to Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, in a disconcerting manner, much to the means of Iago, who pressurizes Roderigo to do so. Typically of Iago, he steps away from the limelight and lets his friend deal with the problem, as noted by certain critics. He uses even his closest and loyal friends in such a way that means no good, but why? Perhaps Iago does so for the intention of building opinions of himself from other people, by this I mean that people consider him to be liable and truthful as often named ‘honest Iago’. After all, Iago is trying to gain respect, pushing towards his enrolment as Othello’s deputy.
My opinion of Roderigo is that he definitely does not deserve such treatment from Iago as he is perhaps most honest, considerate and full of faith in human laws. “In simple and pure soul…”wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue?” I think it has to be said that Roderigo lacks self-esteem, enabling him to be misled easily by such characters as Iago when misinterpreting cunning plans for honest advice. An example of this can be seen when Roderigo asks Iago, his alleged friend, for advice on how to deal with his attraction and love for Desdemona.
Iago wastes no time when it comes to sharing his opinions and plots against people with the audience, as shown in act 1 scene 3 in his soliloquy, “Thus so I ever make my fool my purse…” He goes on to explain that he is indeed using Roderigo for his own benefits and repeatedly calls him a “fool”. His hate for Othello, the “moor” is yet again expressed as well as his next scheme, Desdemona and Cassio’s alleged love affair, which he knows will be regarded as the pure truth, being a highly respected friend to Othello whom Iago will deliver these suspicions to personally.
The use of rhyming couplets seen here are typical of Shakespeare when developing villainous, evil speeches, much like the witches’ in Macbeth; creating tension, mysteriousness and spell like portrayals.
The next victim to fall into play in Iago’s hands is Cassio, the cause of all of Iago’s hatred towards Othello and evil schemes. Iago rightly sees his chance to influence the actions of young Cassio and jumps to it. Reluctantly, Cassio turns down Iago’s invitation for another drink, explaining that he does not handle his drink too well. “Not tonight, good Iago. I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking.” Unnerved, Iago proceeds to pressurize Cassio, using cunning techniques. Iago says to Cassio that by having one more drink, has nothing to lose. His drinking partners have befriended Cassio, emphasizing the merry atmosphere, encouraging Cassio yet again to take another drink. Implying that all is well, heightening the mood, Iago sings drinking songs to which Cassio is drawn.
Obviously drunk against his will, Cassio is involved in a fight, of course intended by Iago, which turns bad and is brought to Othello’s attention. Cassio is sacked as deputy and all the while Iago remains innocent to the situation. The reputation of Cassio is shattered in an instant, much to Iago’s delight, belittling Michael and everything he stands for.
Again, Iago had more trickery to unveil to the audience, “with as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio”, and so he did.
Act 3 shows Iago further planting suspicion around the relationship between Cassio and Desdemona, her husband Othello is the receiver of this bogus accusation. Of course, this is a lie but Othello is none the wiser. He, like many, sees Iago as a wise, knowledgeable man, evidence of his broad understanding can be seen when he talks about Venetian life, “In Venice, they do let God see their pranks.” At first, Othello does not believe Iago, but is further pushed to consider the actions of Cassio in Desdemona’s company, “That he would sneak away so guilty-like, Seeing you coming.”
Iago uses other characters’ words and actions, twisting them to his fancy, perhaps to show that he has better observation of people to better convince others.
Othello becomes angry and shows a different side to his character than previously seen, intriguing the audience as his rage continues to enfold.
Emilia, Iago’s wife, is also used as shown in this scene for a simple yet devious task. She has been repeatedly asked to snatch the precious handkerchief belonging to her lady Desdemona, by none other than her own husband, Iago. “My wayward husband hath a hundred times wooed me to steal it.” Emilia hesitates to snatch the prize as she has a conscience, unlike Iago, but believes it to be her duty to serve her husband, like Desdemona.
Throughout the play, Shakspeare shows different techniques in portraying a villain using language to show double meaning and decietfullness. Iago steals, deceives, lies and kills to gain hierarchy. He constantly abuses his friends’ and wife’s trust, showing amorality as opposed to extreme evilness. Iago lacks a conscience, but must have a trace of one, as he would be an unbelievable character otherwise.
I think Shakespeare has excelled at creating a villain believable to modern laws as well as those passed. Iago as a villain has depth and character, keeping the audience engrossed as the play evolves
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