Iago as a Satan Figure in Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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Iago as a Satan Figure in Othello

The play "Othello" by William Shakespeare is based on an Italian story in Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi (Groliers). In "Othello" we encounter Iago, one of Shakespeare's most evil characters. Iago is an ensign in Othello's army and is jealous of Cassio's promotion to Lieutenant. Through deception and appearance, we see unfolded a plethora of lies and clever schemes. The astonishing thing about Iago is that he seems to make up his malicious schemes as he goes along without any forethought. Noted writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes Iago's plan as "motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" (Scott 413). Iago seizes every opportunity to further advance his plan to his advantage. Greed plays a
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Cassio answers him: "You advise me well. . . Goodnight, honest Iago" (II.iii.332/340). Thus, even Cassio is capable of being deceived by Iago. With all of this deception, it is a wonder that Iago is not Satan himself. He even gives an account to his plan of deception, in a soliloquy, in Act II. In comparing himself with Satan, he says:

When devils will the blackest sins put on/ They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,/ As I do now: for whiles this honest fool/ Plies Desdimona to repair his fortunes/

And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,/ I'll pour this pestilence into his ear. . . (II.iii.301-306)

Iago describes how Satan uses the appearance of something good to disguise the various temptations that we know are evil. He then tells how he will do the same; that while Cassio is begging Desdimona to tell Othello to take him back, Iago then will start his destructive scheme. Satan also deceives by lying and twisting the truth. When he told Eve in the garden of Eden: "surely you will not die" (Gen.3:4), he twisted the truth to deceive her. The apostle John calls him the ultimate liar: ". . . for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). As you can see, Iago and Satan both use deception to further benefit themselves.

Through deception, Iago creates the appearance of good which is what ultimately fools the people around him into thinking that he is loyal and honest. Being an ensign is an honorable rank.

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