Things are Never as They Appear
Manipulation, coupled with good intentions, can lead to a favourable outcome; but when used in an immoral manner, it is the beginning of a tragic end. Such a tragedy strikes in the play “Othello” written by one William Shakespeare. The passage in Act I.i.45-71 is a short dialogue between Roderigo and Iago, the great playwright Shakespeare develops and establishes and portrays Iago’s deranged character in just a few lines. A character that is manipulative, mendacious, and one that has malicious intentions. Iago is the puppeteer behind the scenes formulating and plotting his master plan, manipulating the social behaviour of others at every turn. Thus Iago’s foul characteristics of being deceitful, hypocritical, and a pervicator lead to the eventual demise and tragic end of some of the characters.
To begin, within the last two lines of the selected section the author displays Iago’s character perfectly. Iago’s pride, deceitfulness, and overall blatant disrespect is modelled in these mere two lines. As he belittles poor Roderigo without him even noticing. In this scene Iago states “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve, For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.”( Act I.i 70-71). These two lines are full of irony, allusions, bibliomancy, and foreshadowing. In this quotation Iago openly admits to concealing his true emotions. If he did it would lead to him being vulnerable and “daws” [i.e jackdaws, known as a commonly foolish bird, in turn representing foolish humans] would be able to take advantage and know his true motives. In Roderigo’s naivety he does not realize that the “daws” being referenced is actually him. Iago openly reveals that he is not a good person and the irony of this entire situation is that Roderigo is so unaware of Iago’s actual intentions, that if he can deceive Othello in such a manner then there is nothing stopping him from doing the same to him.
In the last line of the section Iago says “I am not what I am” (Act I.i 71) this line can arguably be considered one of the most important lines in the entire play. Iago is admitting to being a hypocrite, as he pretends to be a loyal friend and servant to Othello; while in actuality he is only serving himself. It is ironic that Iago uses “heaven” to be his judge while in the same couple of phrases mocks the word of God. Iago is blatantly disrespectful and makes reference to the bible in a blasphemous manner. In the quote mentioned he contradicts God’s words directly “I am what I am” (Exodus 3:14). Shakespeare’s desire to portray Iago as the devil can be clearly seen as he rebukes the bible and literally says the exact opposite of what God says. Similar to the devil, Iago’s intentions are always evil and the irony prevails as both are far from heaven. Again if Roderigo was not such an imbecile he would realize that if Iago can be so outwardly shameless and blasphemous towards the bible, such an act should have been a clear indication that this man is not to be trusted. In addition the quotation mentioned above foreshadows Iago’s betrayal throughout the play. In these two lines the great William Shakespeare does wonders to the character development of Iago and sets the stage for his upcoming actions.
Moreover, Iago’s intentions and why he plots this in the first place is also seen in this section. With the use of a simile Iago lets his intention known and states “Wears out his time, much like his master’s ass” (Act I.i 50). Iago uses a simile comparing the servants to donkeys to show the unfair treatment of the servants. Iago begins to plot his plan due to this very simile. He believes that his efforts are in vain and wants to take revenge upon Othello because he promoted Cassio to lieutenant over him. Iago’s loyalty remains only to himself. This can also be seen with a paradox when he says “ In following him, I follow but myself” (Act I.i 64). In this line he reveals that he follows Othello only for his own benefit and has no other interests except for his personal betterment and gain. He also mocks those who serve their masters in a dutiful way; attaining nothing but a mere moresole. While on the other hand he gratifies servants who are like him, those who serve their masters and reap the benefits for their own personal gain. Therefore Iago’s actions and intents demonstrate his manipulative character.
In brief, Act I.i. 45-71 provides a clear insight into the character of Iago. Iago is non compos mentis and has made his malicious actions as well as why he wants to carry out these actions clear in this passage. His evil intentions manifest, as well as his ego, while he makes a fool of Roderigo, along with his devilish resemblance. After conducting a thorough analysis of this passage, one can deduce that Shakespeare utilizes these literary devices and word play to develop Iago’s character and at large his plan. He also allows Iago to follow this plan and let it come to fruition. These few lines give way to the commencement and understanding of the play to come.
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