Iago, a foolish troublemakeror a clever planner? Iago is a mysterious character and has a huge effect on the plot of theplay Othello.
He is able to keep everything a secret to himself untilall his plans are discovered, at the end. Iago does not value certain things inhis life all which lead to his downfall. ” You have a thing for me? It is acommon thing- A good wench give it me.” (3.
3.304,316) shows how he disrespectshis own wife until he finds her useful to his plan. In this play, withapproximately 1100 lines Iago has more lines than any other character, even themain character himself.
One question that comes to mind was this enough forShakespeare to separate Iago from other villains in his plays? Iago’scharacteristics enable him to have influence on others, to the level that hisconversation with Othello in Act III, Scene iii can be considered among one ofthe best displays of persuasive skills ever penned. All of his perfectlyplanned actions and skills come together, enabling Iago to secretly manipulateall his targets. Therefore, Iago is a true evil genius who is capable ofeffectively fool the people around him. This play needed a special villain who could easily undo the honorablemoor and his beautiful wife. Shakespeare would have not been able to developsuch character without making him an expert in using the language. Iago can bemodeled after the mountebanks, as Mirabella describes both Iago and themountebanks, glib, charismatic and smooth talking.
All mountebanks’entertainments and Iago’s use of words can be similar when considering theirultimate goals of fooling people. Although people often thought they caredabout them when buying their remedies, what mountebanks truly wanted was tomake a lot of money. In the opening scene, we can see Iago using the power oflanguage to convince Roderigo to awaken Brabantio, telling him that the moor hadstolen his daughter. After this Roderigo who is controlled by his emotionsthinks that Iago is doing this from the bottom of heart not knowing that Iagowas only doing this to “pinpoint the enemy” with him.
If Roderigo considersOthello as an unequal match for the fair venetian girl, his anger and hatetowards the moor grows. This only benefits Iago since new Roderigo is nowwilling to do anything to eliminate their common enemy. Iago also had theability to provoke laugher using the language. “humor can transform words intodrugs as people will like and trust someone who can make them laugh.”(Mirabella 6) One example of comedy is found in Act II, Scene i where Desdemonawaits for Othello’s delayed arrival in Cyprus. “Often in Shakespeare theinconsequentiality of an episode relative to a play’s plot alerts us to itssignificance in other terms.
” (Zender 2) So here Othello didn’t arrive laterthan Desdemona’s for any plot reason but perhaps to allow Shakespeare to developsome characteristics he could have not developed elsewhere, one being Iago’shumor. While waiting Iago and Desdemona enter an argument over woman and theirplace in society. The argument is comical because of its main point which isabsurd and is lacking logic. “rise to play, and go to bed to work” using thesewords Iago describes his perspective towards woman by saying that they are lazyin all matter except sex. This adds comic to the scene as Desdemona playsalong, laughing to Iago’s continuous references to sex. Also, the great use ofintimation when talking, allows Iago to keep his plans and true intentionsalways a secret to himself.
“Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is thegreen-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” here without directlytalking about what he thinks he gives the curious Othello hints that make himquestion why should I be jealous? Of whom? When influencing characters thislets Iago stay hidden as they always think that Iago did not have any inputs inthe decision they made. The second reason making the audience believe that Iago is truly one ofShakespeare’s most intelligent villains, is Iago’s ability to use everyonearound him in a way to progress his plan. Iago uses people on strength of hisreputation, making them follow any of his suggestions. Roderigo is one of thecharacters being used the most by Iago throughout the play. Iago needs Roderigofor his money and services he cannot do himself without going unmasked.
Roderigodesperately seeks Desdemona’s love. Iago who is aware of this, starts using himin any way he can, promising him a pleasant future. One of the crucial uses ofRoderigo by Iago happens when Iago takes Roderigo’s money, lying about fulfillinghis needs.
Also, in Act II, Scene iii Roderigo is secretly sent off by Iago topick a fight with drunk Cassio. Iago who is scared of being blamed by Othellodoes not start the fight himself. This allows him to defend Cassio when Othellodemands to know how the fighting began.
This becomes helpful to Iago’s plan asCassio who finds Iago caring takes his advice of talking to Desdemona intoconsideration. Deception of Cassio leads us to the next point showcasing howIago uses characters cleverly. “for Michael Cassio, I dare be sworn I thinkthat he is honest” (3.3.65) with clever use of hesitation earlier in the scenebringing up Michael Cassio’s name lets Othello to make connections on his own. Thisshows how Iago successfully uses Cassio to make Othello jealous, advancing hisplan as the moor becomes more suspicious to his wife.
Despite being an eloquent orator and skilled in using people, Iago wouldhave not come out a winner if he was not a quick problem solver. Therefore, takingadvantage of quick situations is the last reason making Iago a genius. In ActIV, Scene i Othello has a long conversation with Iago demanding for more evidences,that prove Desdemona is a cheater. Iago who is short on answers knows that heneeds to provide Othello with a solid evidence, therefore, setting up a plan ashe sees Michael Cassio approaching.
He tells Othello to hide, staging aconversation with Cassio, making it look like they are talking about Desdemonaas Othello overhears. In fact, they were only talking Bianca, the prostitutethat is in love with Cassio. “she did deceive her father, marrying you” (3.3 ,208)shows Iago giving Othello another evidence using logic. This contributes as aproof to Iago’s masterly in fast thinking. This is because Iago remembersBrabantio from court saying: “she has deceived her father, and may thee” (1.2,289-290) in the right place at the right time. Iago uses the fact thatDesdemona disobeyed his father to remind Othello that she would do the same tohim, claiming that Desdemona is a liar.
These two quick solutions Iago comes upwith in these crucial moments are brilliant in the way they gave Othelloconcrete evidence that his Venetian wife is having an affair with his formerlieutenant. Later in Act V, Scene i Iago sends Roderigo to ambush Cassio. Theattack does not go as planned, therefore Iago takes action by wounding Cassiofrom behind. Iago who is afraid of being caught quickly makes up his mind oncemore blaming Bianca, who comes in asking about what happened. “what is thematter ho, who isn’t that cried?” (5.
1 ,74) After that he tries to divertattention from himself even more, by blaming Bianca two more times. In the past successful mountebanks and merchants ran the shows in thestreets, selling anything to the gullible people passing by. This is similar tothe play Othello where the charismatic deceiver who Shakespearedeveloped, runs the show selling anything to the characters that are easilyfooled. These characters, however, unlike a lot of people around the worlddon’t complain about being surrounded by people who don’t understand theconcept of loyalty and honesty as they all have a friend who they call “honestIago” to the last moment. Iago achieves this through great use of language andbuilding up a great reputation. Because of his strong bonds of trust and his influenceon characters they always follow his orders. When he is not prepared he takesadvantage of the situations by evaluating them really well.
All which advancehis plan of ruining Othello’s life without him ever being suspected, provingthat he is in fact a genius of manipulation.