In Shakespeare’s Othello, the evil Iago pretends to befriend Othello in order to manipulate him to serve his own selfish needs––revenge! As we will learn, Iago has a great
gift for manipulation, lies and deceit. Iago, whether directly or indirectly is responsible for
many tragedies. In the writings of Hesoid, Hesoid discusses the nine Muses. One such muse
was Melpomene, the goddess of music, song and dance. In Classical times, when the Muses
were assigned specific artistic and literary abilities, Melpomene was named muse of tragedy. Iago and Melpomene share many tragic moments, albeit not their own moments, Othello and Desdemona’s tragic moments. Iago is daemonized by Melpomene. Iago is an artist of tragic evil. The same way that some people enjoy writing songs or dancing, Iago enjoys ruining people's lives. He does it with a sense of finesse, appreciating the elegance or cleverness of a particular step in his scheme as much as its final result: incredible suffering for Othello and Desdemona.
Ever notice how Iago stops every time he does something cleverly evil, to muse on it and tell us how awesome he is? In the first 20 pages of Othello, Iago seeks his revenge. Iago says to Roderigo, “I hate the Moor; And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets He has done my office: I know not if 't be true; But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety” (Shakespeare 20). Iago is basically saying, I hate the Moor, and there’s a rumor that
he’s slept with my wife. I’m not sure if it’s true, but the suspicion is enough for me. Othello thinks highly of me. That’ll help me form a plan against him. Let’s see, how can I get Cassio's job, and at the same time use him to hurt Othello? I’ll insinuate to Othello that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. Cassio is a handsome man, and the sort of man who people would expect to be a seducer. The Moor is open and honest and he thinks many a man is honest. He will be easy to manipulate. So it’s decided. I’ve worked it out. With a little help from my muse, I’ll bring this evil plan to success.
Iago sets into motion a set of events that gets Othello thinking about Desdemona’s loyalty, and if she has been unfaithful. It all starts with Cassio, Desdemona, and Emilia in the castle garden. Desdemona is talking to poor distraught Cassio about losing his job and falling into the bad graces of Othello. Desdemona promises to help Cassio, at almost any cost. Emilia alerts them to Othello and Iago’s presence, and Cassio runs away in shame. Othello thinks nothing of the encounter, but Iago insinuates that it was an odd thing that Cassio would run away like that. Listen to what Iago says to Othello, “Cassio, my Lord! No, sure, I cannot think of it, / That he would steal away so guilty-like, / Seeing you coming” (Shakespeare 42). Desdemona sees Othello and starts to plead a case for Cassio’s return. Desdemona pleads Cassio’s case so intently, that it arouses suspicions in Othello. Suspicions Iago...