In Othello, Shakespeare tells the story of the soldier Othello, a noble and respected man, whose insecurities enable him to fall prey to the overwhelming power of jealousy. Through manipulation and lies, Othello changes from a kind and faithful husband into a man completely taken over by jealousy, resulting in his downfall. This shift in Othello’s character is done by the antagonist, Iago. Iago’s cruelty to not only Othello, but all others around him, reveals his villainous personality.
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Lago acts through selfish reasons alone, and stops at no lengths in order to get to what he wants. Through the character Iago, Shakespeare, in his play Othello, explores the concept of the evil nature of man and argues that one who is motivated purely by greed and the desire for power will ultimately face the consequences of his or her actions. Iago is one of the most interesting characters in Othello. He is full of jealousy, greed, selfishness, and hatred. At first, it seems Iago is only jealous of Othello because he has chosen Cassio for lieutenant instead of Iago.
When it is revealed Iago is developing a plot in order to take down Othello, a shift in Iago’s character is seen. He is not only jealous, but he acts on his jealousy, making him appear crueler than when first introduced. As Iago explains, “The Moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will as tenderly be led by th’ nose as asses are. I have ’t. It is engendered! Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light” (I. iii. 336-341). Iago notices Othello’s character and acts on his weaknesses, showing both his cruelty and intelligence.
Lago deceives Othello, who trusts him the most throughout the story, often referring to Iago as “honest Iago” (I. iii. 294). Shakespeare uses irony continuously throughout the play when it comes to Iago. One of the most ironic parts of the play is the fact Othello puts great trust into Iago, who lies the mostand is actually working against Othello. Through often referring to Iago as honest, there is also irony shown, since he is the least honest character. Iago gaining such great trust from Othello contributes to his deceiving nature.
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Lago’s evil nature reveals the cruelty of man. Iago is a ruthlessvillain. He uses everyone around him in order to reach his ultimate goal of bringing down Othello. Each character acts as a pawn in his game. Iago deceives almost every character he interacts with in the book. The true cruel nature of Iago is seen in how he treats others. He acts against others purely because he enjoys being evil. This is not only seen when he uses Cassio as a way to bring down Othello, but his evil tendencies are truly shown by the end when he kills both Roderigo and his wife Emilia.
After Iago is captured he is asked of his motives to which he responds, “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know: From this time forth I never will speak word” (V. ii. 11). Iago has driven Othello to his downfall, yet he has no reason or remorse for the cruel things he has done, nor does Iago feel badly about his actions toward anyone else he used along the way. Iago’s lack of true reason or feeling towards anyone reveal the pure evil inside of him. Shakespeare created Iago as a truly selfish villain.
Iago is wicked and cruel towards each character based on both his evil nature and his desire for power. Shakespeare incorporates Iago’s struggle with power over Othello, as well as those around him, in order to explore the consequences of a desire for power. By the end of the play when Iago is captured Lodovico says to Cassio, “To you, lord governor, remains the censure of this hellish villain: the time, the place, the torture. Oh, enforce it! ” (V. ii. 386-388). The man Iago uses as the center of his plan against Othello becomes the one who chooses Iago’s punishment.
Through Cassio gaining power over Iago, after being manipulated by him throughout the play, Shakespeare explores the concept that selfishness and jealousy can ultimately bring man to his downfall. Iago remains one of Shakespeare’s most interesting and evil characters. Iago is able to influence each character in one way or another throughout the play based on his ability to find anyone’s weakness. Through this cleverness and lack of care for others, Iago is ultimately able to take down many characters in Othello. Iago remains the embodiment of evil in Othello, never changing his selfish and cruel behavior.See More on Othello