Iago in William Shakespeare's Othello
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In Shakespeare's drama 'Othello', the reader is presented a tragedy of
characters deeply affected by the clash of good and evil. The evil
contained within Othello is by no means magical or mythical yet is
represented by the character Iago.
Iago has no conscience, no ability to perform good deeds. He is a
psychopath, and is not capable of forming affectionate relationships
or feeling guilt and concern over his behaviour. He is "an unbeliever
in and denier of all things spiritual, who only acknowledges God, like
Satan, to defy him" (William Robertson Turnbull, Othello: A critical
The opposite of Iago is Desdemona, who is described frequently by
other characters as "she is divine, the grace of heaven" (Act 2, Scene
The ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil is one of Iago's
motivations. It is not only in his nature of evil, that he succeeds
but also in the weaknesses of the other characters.
Iago uses Othello's weaknesses, especially jealousy and he knows that
Othello is a man of integrity and therefore, believes others to be so
until proven differently. Moreover has Iago no respect for integrity
and consequently, and has no respect for Othello, who he describe as
an "ass", which can "tenderly be led by th' nose." (Act 1, Scene 3,
Othello is also referred to as a "barbarian" by Iago and to a certain
extent this is true; he relies on warrior instincts rather than sound
reasoning. Iago makes him kill his wife Desdemona and ultimately to
commit suicide. We feel sorry with him, because he is not able to
detect the deception and evil of Iago. Othello's central flaw is that
he believes that all things are like they seem; he has no suspicion
that appearance are deceiving, and this leads to his false conviction
of Desdemona and to her downfall- the one truly good natured character
in the play.
But Iago knows not only that Othello is deceived easily by
appearances, but also that Othello is convinced of Iago's honesty.
This knowledge defines and determines the relationship between them.
Iago takes things, which most of us would see as good and uses those
traits against them. One example is that Iago uses Othello's
trustfulness and integrity. Iago knows that Othello already trusts
him. Iago will play an honest man, who is loyal and loves his general.
If this is the case, why should Othello doubt Iago's 'honest' words?
And even if Othello questions him, Iago's quick wits keep him
uncovered by weaving all his lies together.
Like in Act 3 Scene 3, when Othello curses Iago, if his suspicions are
without foundation. Iago quick protests that he was only acting as a