Othello By Shakespeare Shakespeares Othello introduces a striking and fascinating character, Iago, to all of its readers. His evilness and ambition for revenge has the ability to grasp each readers attention and not let go. And Shakespeare wastes no time in presenting his audience with such an astounding character. As the play opens, it immediately becomes apparent that Iago is already at work. He is using his skills to, once again, convince Roderigo that he will persuade Desdemona to fall in love with him, and in return Iago will aquire a portion of Roderigos great fortune.
Nonetheless, it is not only Iagos evil ways that catch the attention of the audience; his manipulative cunningness, and his power-complex both play a major role in the unfolding of his character. Although the antagonistic Iago is the perpetuator of the evil in Othello, he is no fool. On the contrary, many scholars, both contemporary and from Shakespeares time, consider Iago the most intelligent character in the play. This intelligence enables him to be very cunning, allowing him to manipulate nearly every character in the play to his benefit. He is also very careful in his choice of words. At the beginning of the play in Act I Scene I, while prodding Roderigo to alert Desdemonas father of her disobedience, Iago tells him to “Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell/ As when, by night and negligence, the fire/ Is spied in populous cities.” Iago knows that the bigger they play out the scene and the more hatred they infuse in him, the more likely he will be to cause problems to Othello.
He is also quick to leave the area before Brabantio comes down and calls him to be a witness against Othello, his boss. Iago is always quick to flatter or glorify someone before engaging in too deep of a conversation because he knows that it will soften him or her up and they will be more likely to listen to him and tell him what he wants to know. For example, in Iagos first conversation with Othello, he first says how he had to restrain himself from killing Roderigo for badmouthing the general, and then promptly asks him whether or not he married Desdemona. There are numerous other occasions that demonstrate Iagos intelligence and cunningness, for example the handkerchief ordeal, but there are just too many to name here. It becomes evident, as you read through Othello, that Iago is obsessed with power.
His power-complex involves both money and a fixation on having a position of authority. His money-loving issue is best shown in his dialogue with Roderigo in Act I Scene II starting at line 327. On every-other line he tells Roderigo to “Put money in thy purse” and “fill thy purse with money.” He convinces Roderigo not to kill himself so he can continue being paid by this wealthy man. The biggest motive Iago has for his actions in the play is the fact that Othello passed him over for promotion, and the position was given to someone with little experience. Iago is greatly outraged by this, so outraged that he conspires to get revenge on both Othello and Cassio.
This proves he has a power complex because he would much rather have the position of greater power, lieutenant, than the position of ensign, which was one that held great respect, love, and trust. In other words, he didnt get promoted but he still has a great job. In Act I Scene I, Iago discloses to Roderigo and the readers that “Preferment goes by letter and affection,/ And not by old gradation, where each second/ Stood heir to the first.” This means that who is chosen to be promoted is not chosen by experience and a step-ladder seniority system, but rather he is chosen through personal influence and favoritism. In “Pattern in Othello”, Ralph Berry writes “… there are hints that Iago comes from a lower social stratum than Cassio, and in the drinking scene Cassios references to man of quality and the lieutenant is to be saved before the ancient suggest an element of class antagonism”.
Cassio was probably well known and liked throughout the land (he was, after all, one of Brabantios choices for Desdemona) and no doubt received the promotion through knowing people. This vexes Iago even more, and could account for his lust for money as a means of gaining a higher social status. Iago is an intelligent man and an experienced warrior who could achieve much good if he used his skills positively to create rather than destroy. He allowed his power-complex to invade his mind and consequently used his intelligence and smooth-talk to bring doom to those he was supposed to love, and ultimately to himself also.