Shakespeare's Othello - Troubled Iago Essay

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Troubled Iago

Unquestionably the most perfidious character within the cast of Shakespeare’s Othello is the cunning Iago. He spends his life, it would seem, taking revenge on the general and destroying nearly everyone around himself.

Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” elaborates on Iago’s exact function and place in the play:

. . . Iago ruins Othello by insinuating into his mind the question, ‘How do you know?’ The tragic experience with which this play is concerned is loss of faith, and Iago is the instrument to bring Othello to this crisis of his being. His task is made possible by his being an old and trusted companion, while husband and wife are virtually strangers, bound only by passion and
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He is the personification of the villain that Elizabethans had come to expect from Italian short stories and from Machiavellian commentary. Villains of this type, as well as those of domestic origin, had long been popular on the stage. From the days of the mystery and morality plays, the characters personifying evil invariably had gripped the attention of audiences, for iniquity always stirs more popular excitement than virtue. (127)

First of all, Iago’s very words paint him for what he is. Robert Di Yanni in “Character Revealed Through Dialogue” states that the evil antagonist reveals his character quite plainly through his speech:

Iago’s language reveals his coarseness; he crudely reduces sexual love to animal copulation. It also shows his ability to make things happen: he has infuriated Brabantio. The remainder of the scene shows the consequences of his speech, its power to inspire action. Iago is thus revealed as both an instigator and a man of crude sensibilities. (123)

David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies enlightens us on the ancient:

Iago’s machinations yield him both “sport” and “profit” (1.3.387); that is, he enjoys his evildoing, although he is also driven by a motive. This Vice-like behavior inhuman garb creates a restless sense of a dark metaphysical
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