Iago - character analysis

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  • Created by: Olivia
  • Created on: 03-06-10 16:21

'Iago was a brilliant opportunist who had plenty o

Iago defies the role of villian, in that he is complex and intriguing to us as an audience. However, it should be noted that Iago does not control the events of the play, even if he appears to, as demonstrated in the last Act of the play where he realises that "this is the night which fordoes him/ Or makes him quite." But before we get to the catharsis of the play, in which Iago's mastery of language and deceptive skills have ruined the characters, we must understand him from the beginning.

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Act 1 to 2

In the opening scenes, Iago takes advantage of Roderigo's love for Desdemona and uses him as a pawn in his plotting. His motive, at first, is clear: "I know my price." To avenge himself, improve his reputation, and ruin Othello for choosing Cassio over him. It is easy now for Iago to sew the seeds of destruction, now that Roderigo's dislike of Othello, the man "of here and everywhere", and Brabantio's disdain, have created orderly disorder.

Although Othello enters triumphantly and chivalrically, "keep up your swords for the dew will rust them", Iago is still able to plot his demise." This is because the resentment of Brabantio, and Othello's label as the cultural outsider, will come to haunt him when Iago poisons his mind. He knows he needs no "ocular" proof when Othello is "of a free and open nature", trusting in all others and naive.

When Iago, suprisingly, plots at Cassio's downfall first, he rejects the idea that he is a villian. "How am I then the villian?" Iago's 'heaven-sent' material is evident in Cassio's naivity, and reluctance to confront Othello, to the point where he breaches military protocol. Iago understands that Othello and Cassio are moving outside of their social boundaries, and won't survive because they are not equipped with his polyglot skills.

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Act 3

Iago's opportunist equalities are evident in Act 3, when he witnesses Desdemona and Cassio talking. In front of Othello, he remarks, "Ha! I like not that." Othello's immediate response is "What dost thou say?" Already, Othello is becoming dependent on the words and thoughts of Iago, so that a meer gesture of courtesy between Desdemona and Cassio becomes a sign of their supposed affair. Iago's power of suggestion makes Othello weak and emasculated, because he is willing to be believe those he trusts.

Iago's motives at this point of the play becomes complex and unclear. Act 3, Scene 4 however gives us insight into Iago's prime motivation, in that he is jealous of Othello's 'sexual competance', in his marriage to prized possession Desdemona, and his new bond with the handsome Cassio. This does not indicate that Iago is in love with Othello, but it points towards sexual jealousy, especially since he has an active, perverse response to sex, and a disgust towards love and feminine emotion. He thinks love makes Roderigo a "fool", that Desdemona's "appetite" makes Othello weak, and that his wife is simply a sexual object or "thing" to him. But one cannot mistake the mimic of marital vows when Iago states he is "bound forever" to Othello.

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Act 4 to 5

In Act 4, Scene 1, Cassio's entrance provides Iago with the perfect opportunity to emasculate Othello and poison him into eventually murdering his wife. "She haunts me here in this very place." When Othello retires after his fit, he mistakes Cassio's light-hearted dialogue as slighting Desdemona, rather than Bianca. The tone becomes eerie and foreshadowing. One might question the realism of peripeteia, or the chain of events, which seem to help Iago's plans. Is it possible that Othello could fail to realise that Cassio is talking about Bianca? However, after Othello breaks the ultimate code of honour and chivalry by "striking" his wife, the deteriation of Othello's heroic language is complete. He even manages to persuade Roderigo, who could have become a foil in his plot, to kill Cassio because it is a "neccessity" in attaining Desdemona.

In the catharsis of the play, however, Iago's heaven-sent material is not so substantial. His hasty verse and irregular meter, "It makes us or it mars us", illustrates that he is not immortal from human fear or weakness, which he loathes. "If Cassio remain/He hath a daily beauty which makes me ugly." Iago is, to some extent, unable to control the damage he has inflicted. His polyglot skills started the conflict in the play, and his decision not to "speak word" ends the play as well.

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