Iago: Evil Incarnate

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Last updated: August 18, 2019

Iago: Evil Incarnate “l follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters Cannot be truly follow’d” (1. 1.

42-44). lagds speech to Roderigo in the first scene gives the audience their first glimpse at his true nature. He shows here that he only serves Othello in order to serve himself; this statement hints at his overarching scheme to bring down Othello in the end. Iago is unquestionably the villain in Othello, but beyond that, he perfectly personifies evil in every action he takes.Although his goal is apparent from the beginning of the play, the focus should not be on what, but how; he methods Iago uses to achieve his goals are what make him such a good villain.

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Iago is a great villain because of his effectiveness, and his effectiveness stems from the relentlessness in which he pursues his goal to ruin Othello. lagds personality, methods, consistent effectiveness, and pleasure in the harm he does all combine to make him the perfect villain and an excellent personification of evil. Iago does a masterful Job at deceiving those around him in many different areas, but one of the most important is his true nature.In the same speech as the one quoted above, Iago epeats that same concept saying, “In following him, I but follow myself” (1. 1. 58). He is declaring that everything he does is working towards his own ends, including his service to Othello. One more time, at the end of his speech, he signifies that all is not as it seems with the statement, “l am not what I am” (65).

This speech lets the audience in on his secret, and prepares them for the future evildoings that Iago will perpetrate in the pursuit of his goals. One of the interesting things about the speech is that it is not addressed to the audience, but to Roderigo.We can see early in the lay that he sees Roderigo as simply a pawn to be used in his greater goal of taking down Othello. Still, he is so confident in his deceitful skills that he admits to one of the people he is lying to that he is not what he appears to be. Of course, Iago is justified in his arrogance; this warning flies right over Roderigds head, and Iago continues to fool everyone around him.

There is not one part of Iago that can be considered ‘good;’ yet, he is continually referred to as “Honest Iago,” and there are repeated references to lagds ‘honesty by the very people he is deceiving.Not only oes Iago deceive everyone and work to ruin his enemies, he receives great Joy in doing so. After he engineers Cassio’s downfall and begins the opening steps of his plan to destroy Othello, Iago reveals his enjoyment with the line, “Pleasure and action make the hours seem short” (2. 3.

379). This line is in reference to everything he accomplished that night towards his goal; all of his machinations and scheming made the hours pass quickly, and he is shocked to find it is morning. Throughout the play, there is evidence such as this that Iago takes pleasure in the harm he causes to hose he hates.This perhaps more than anything else declares to all that Iago is without a doubt an evil man. Shakespeare has created many villains in his long list of works, but almost all of them have a valid reason for what they do. In addition, their enjoyment is not in the act, but in the ‘Justice’ that they are seeking while doing the evil acts. For example, in The Merchant of Venice, Antonio mistreats Shylock, and thoroughly enjoys the harm and the twisted maneuvering he accomplishes in the process. Another deceit that Iago carries out amazingly is the overall scheme to ruin Othello.

Besides Othello, Iago also seeks to harm Cassio as part of his master scheme. One of the things that point to lagds evil nature is his seeming lack of convincing motive for his plans. Early on, it is obvious that Iago resents Othello and Cassio for the promotion he wanted and felt he deserved; however, these reasons are tenuous at best.

Obviously, there is more to his resentment of Cassio than Just the promotion; even after Cassio is demoted and Iago given the promotion to lieutenant, Iago asks Othello that he be the one to kill Cassio saying, “And for Cassio, let me be his undertaker” (4. 211). The trespass’ against Iago does not seem to Justify this desire for blood that Iago has in regard to Cassio. The overblown reaction and desire to hurt his enemies is one of the things that make Iago such a good villain. He is not content simply to right the Wrong,’ he desires to grind his enemy’s face into the ground and destroy him. In addition, a promotion, or even the lack thereof, is not a very solid reason to attempt to ruin a man’s life the way Iago does to Othello.

It seems a bit overboard, and therefore it is likely that there is more to lagds hatred of Othello.For, atred is truly the driving emotion behind lagds actions throughout the play. Even lagds claim that ftwixt my sheets He has done my office” (1. 3. 387-8) and the claim that his schemes are simply so that he will be “even’d with him, wife for wife” (2. 1.

299) do not hold water. There is no evidence that Othello slept with Emilia, and the underlying insinuation is that this is a lie and an excuse. Much like everything that Iago does in the play, here he clouds the water with decoys and fabrications. lagds motivation is something the audience can only guess at, though it seems that “he is evil” is the most likely answer.

Yet more proof of lagds evil is the lack of regard he has for anyone else; he is corrupt and focused only on his own evil desires. Iago sees the people around him only as pieces to use to further his own goals. He uses Roderigo, Cassio, Desdemona, Othello himself, and even his own wife Emilia to bring about the destruction of the Moor.

Iago is like a spider sitting at the center of a huge web of lies and treachery; he pulls first on one string and then another, all in an effort to ruin Othello. Even when he uses the adultery excuse as one of the reasons he hates Othello, he reveals that his feelings are not for his wife ut himself only.If Iago truly loved his wife and thought that she was sleeping with Othello, his reaction would have differed considerably.

More than likely, he would still have been angered, but Emilia would have fgured into his plans much more than she did. From the beginning to the end, Iago never shows one ounce of care for anyone other than himself. Iago is responsible for the death of almost every main character in this play, whether directly or indirectly. His death tally includes Roderigo, Desdemona, Emilia, Othello, and ultimately himself; that is five lives ruined with four f those totally ended by one man, and all for no discernible reason.Even though Cassio survived lagds plots, his life was still in a ruinous state by the end of the play.

Through methodical planning and inexorable effort, Iago accomplished almost everything he set out to do. There was really only one flaw in all of his scheming, but one flaw is all it took for tragedy to strike. Though Iago does not get away with his crimes that still does not lessen the tragedy in the other five lives he destroyed. To be proclaiming, “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know: From this time forth I never will speak a word” (5. 2. 03-4).

Ultimately, lagds personification of evil leads the audience to understand the insidious nature of evil. Like in Othello, Evil can be present in those you least expect, it uses deceit like a veil to hide its true nature. Also like Iago, evil is unrelenting in the pursuit of its ends, and it uses everything it can against those who oppose it. These very similarities make Iago such an excellent, effective villain and the ultimate incarnation of evil out of all of Shakespeare’s plays. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed.

Philip Weller. Othello Navigator. Shakespeare Navigators, n. d. Web. 9 Dec 2012.

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