Michelle GaudiosoApril 16, 2004I chose Iago as my choice of character to discuss the discrepancy
between appearance and truth as the driving factor in how Shakespeare
creates characters.Iago is possibly the most heinous villain in
Shakespeare. Iago is skillful, untrustworthy, and selfish when plotting
his actions. He uses these traits to his advantage by slowly planning his
triumph while watching the demise of others. Iago uses Othello’s weakness
against him, specifically gullibility and his devotion to Desdemona. It is
Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those
around him that make him both a powerful and compelling character.
Iago begins his scheming ability when he convinces Roderigo to tell
about Othello and Desdemona elopement to Desdemona’s Father, Brabanzio.
Iago continues his plot successfully; making fools of others, and makes
himself feel satisfied. Except, Roderigo, no one is aware of Iago’s plans.
This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man loyal to his superiors.
The fact that Othello sees Iago as trustworthy and honest gives the evil
within Iago a perfect unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity
to get to Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot
refuse. He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with
Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is the jealousy
and the gullibility of Othello that lead to the downfall of Desdemona and
Iago’s hostility against Othello is immediately introduced in Act 1,
“Despise me if I do not,” which clearly states his hatred for Othello.
Othello passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the
inexperienced solider Michael Cassio. Iago feels betrayed because he
considers himself more qualified than Cassio to serve as lieutenant.
Act II Scene III, Othello arrives, greets his wife, and announces that
there will be a celebration for their safe return home from Cyprus.Iago
convinces Montano to inform Othello of Cassio’s weakness for alcohol hoping
this would provoke Othello to demote Cassio. Iago tells Roderigo that he
will start a fight with Cassio. Iago pretends not to offend Cassio when
telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved in, but Iago secretly
wants the worst to become of Cassio’s situation without seeming
responsible. Iago’s plan was a success. Othello strips Cassio of his rank
of lieutenant, this gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively follow
through with his plan and manipulate Othello.
Act III scene III, is the point in the play where Iago begins to
manipulate Othello. Cassio feels that it is necessary to seek the help of
Desdemona in order to regain his position if lieutenant and therefore meets
with her to discuss the situation.Iago and Othello enter the scene just
after Cassio leaves, and Iago try’s to make it look like Cassio left
because he does not want to be seen in the presence of Desdemona. When
Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to strengthen Othello’s views
of honesty and trust towards him by saying, “Men should be what they seem;
or those that be not, would they might seem none!” This cleverness by Iago
works upon Othello’s flaw, gullibility. Othello has a tendency to take
everything he sees and everything he is told at face value without
questioning the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would pretend to
be something they are not, while in fact that is the exact thing he
Act III, Scene IV, Iago begins to become blunt with Othello by
saying, “I speak not yet of proof. Look to your wife; observe her well
with Cassio. Iago is suggesting that she possibly having relations with
Cassio, and continues on as if nothing has happened. This suggestion puts
Othello into a sate of such emotional turmoil he feels lost. Also,
Desdemona’s suggestion of forgiving Cassio adds to Othello’s almost
immediate conviction that his wife is unfaithful.
Iago is ecstatic when Emilia gives him the handkerchief, which he
plants in Cassio’s room as evidence of his affair with Desdemona. Iago
arranges a conversation with Cassio, which Othello watches and sees as
proof that Cassio and Desdemona slept together. Othello demands further
proof that his wife is unfaithful, Iago says that he seen Cassio, “wipe his
beard” with Desdemona’s handkerchief, which is also the first gift Othello
ever gave Desdemona. Othello demands the handkerchief from Desdemona, but
she tells him that she does not have it with her. Through, further
manipulation by Iago, Othello becomes so consumed by jealousy that he flips
out and he winds up slapping Desdemona. Meanwhile, Iago assures Roderigo
that everything is going as planned, which is to kill Cassio.
Iago unsuccessfully attempts to kill Cassio, and Othello smothers
Desdemona with a pillow. Othello learns the truth from Emilia. Iago
attempts to silence Emilia, who realized what Iago has done. At first,
Othello insists that Iago has told the truth, citing the handkerchief as
evidence. Once Emilia tells him how she found the handkerchief and gave it
to Iago, Othello is crushed and begins to cry. He try’s to kill Iago but
is stopped. Iago kills Emilia and takes off, but is caught by Montano.
Othello then kills himself with a sword.
Iago is a pure representation of evil. His motivation derives from
jealousy and hatred for Othello. Iago uses the other characters in the
play to work specifically towards his goal. In this way, he can maintain
his supposed unknowingness about the events going on and still work his
scheming ways. It is obvious that Iago’s major mistake is that he trusted
his wife Emilia and found that she not trustworthy as he thought. Finally,
everything Iago pretends to be led to his demise, honesty, innocence, and