Throughout the course of the play "Othello", Iago is portrayed as the typical sinister villain with no motives for his evil plans, but he also brings many comical aspects to the production. Many audiences would have disliked Iago because of the fact that he is the stereotypical villain, yet we are compelled to watch in suspense, his next move. He is definitely a very complex character to understand. He appears to lack motivation for his evil plans and bases his reasoning on ideas he has conjured up in his head, such as the idea of his loving wife Emilia having an affair with Othello.
Jacobean audiences in particular would have been shocked by Iago's behaviour for the fact that he uses a lot of blasphemous language such as "S'blood". This would have been frowned upon in Jacobean society due to the this religious era; whereas today, it would not be seen as such a sin to take the Lord's name in vain. Many directors such as Sam Mendes have chosen to present their adaptation of the play as a homoerotic thriller and have portrayed Iago as the lusty servant who is in fact jealous of Desdemona, whereas other performances like Michael Grandage's production portrayed Iago as simply a motiveless character.
In my opinion, Iago is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare's most notorious villains; without him there would be no story line. It is him who influences the characters to carry out the terrible tasks that keep the play entertaining and full of suspense. In many productions of Othello, Iago is a Machiavellian. This term originates from a text called "The Prince" which was written in the early sixteenth century by a figure of the Italian renaissance named Niccoli?? Machiavelli.
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He wrote in one of his books that "the end justifies the means" which was misunderstood by audiences who interpreted it as "any evil action can be justified if it is done for a good purpose". Niccoli?? Machiavelli insinuated that all the rulers that had remained in power had not been kind and caring men, concerned with justice and fairness, but were infact cruel individuals, willing to do anything to ensure the security of their state and their own personal power. Iago shows the audience his Machiavellian ways in Act two Scene one when he says "Make the Moor thank me, love me and reward me.
For making him egregiously an ass. " This truly reveals his duplicitous nature and shows how much he enjoys other people's misery. Many critics have suggested that Iago may have been a warning to King James about his untrustworthy followers, as there was a lot of uncertainty about how he was ruling England at the time. Iago also reveals a duplicitous nature in Act one, scene two, when he swears to the Greek god "Janus"; the name of a Roman mythical God with two faces which could be reflected as a two faced image.
Malicious is one of many adjectives used to describe Iago, but is it entirely accurate? Throughout most of the play, he is portrayed as an open and trustworthy person by every character; all of them refer to him as "honest Iago" Yet, as the audience are well informed by the end of the first act, he appears to be quite the opposite, as he states "I am not what I am" although ironically, he always tells the audience the truth In act one scene three, Shakespeare cleverly brings in the use of rhetoric as Iago tries to persuade Roderigo that Desdemona will soon tire of Othello.
He states that "she must change for youth; which she is sated with his body she will find the error of her choice", and then goes on to reveal his hatred for Othello and how he wishes for Roderigo to help him seek revenge. In a speech made by Iago, he mentions Roderigo's money eight times! He uses repetition to encourage Roderigo to make money, but the implication to the audience is that the money is for Iago and not Roderigo. Roderigo then says, "I'll sell all my land" which tells the audience that Iago's plan has worked.
This prepares us for later on in the play when Iago uses his powerful manipulation to bring Othello to his downfall. Although Iago is often called the villain of the play, he also brings many entertaining moments; he is the only source of humour in the play. This may be perhaps, because he has caused all the misery in the play so is enjoying watching people suffer! He expresses his misogynistic views in Act Two Scene One in a heated discussion with Desdemona. Iago begins the discussion through the means of criticizing his wife, Emilia.
He says "Sir, would she give you so much of her lips as of her tongue she oft bestows on me You would have enough" meaning Emilia often nags him. This shows that Shakespeare wished to amuse the audience too, as they would find this very entertaining possibly because they could relate to what Iago was saying, as it could be interpreted as a commonly stereotypical comment. Another scene where Iago is entertaining to the audience is in Act Two scene Three, where he pretends to be drunk in order to encourage Casio to drink more and become disorderly; in this scene Shakespeare is really playing to his audience.
When the men are drinking, Iago makes a number of comments about the English, and what heavy drinkers they are compared to other countries, "Your Dane, Your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander - drink, ho! - are nothing to your English. " These comments would have met with a very wild reception from the crowd. This indicates to us that this play, despite its exotic settings, is very relevant to an English Jacobean audience. Also in this scene, Iago is at his best and plays a number of different parts to ensure the success of his plan.
The three roles that he plays are: The ancient concerned for the sake of his master, the soldier desperate to maintain the peace of the city and the faithful friend of Cassio. The audience by now would be fully aware that he is really none of these roles, which brings us back to the idea that he is a complete machiavellian. Throughout the play, Iago uses his powerful language techniques to amuse and persuade the characters in order to get what he wants. During this process, Iago makes a number of powerful soliloquies that reveal his motives and plans.
These soliloquies let the audience see the true personality and characteristic traits of the person speaking. Throughout, Iago is referred to as "honest Iago" or "good friend" but the audience are fully aware that these terms do not reflect Iago's true personality because they know what he is like as he has revealed his true self in his soliloquies. This brings a lot of dramatic irony to the play; the audience are fully aware of what has happened or what is about to happen, whilst the other characters remain unaware. A great example of this in the play, is in act 5 Scene 2.
By this point, Othello had already killed Desdemona and had found out about Iago's lies; Othello then asks Iago, "why hath thus ensnared my soul and body? " ( meaning why have you done this to me? ) Iago replies, "demand me nothing; what you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word" This is hugely ironic because up to this, he had used words to his power, as the tool that caused Othello's downfall. This would be very frustrating for audiences who have been puzzled throughout the play as to what motivates Iago to cause such trouble.
In conclusion, I believe Iago's character structures this play and creates the story line; some of the most exciting plots are centred around him - he murders his wife, arouses Brabantio, kills Roderigo and gets Othello's army drunk; His actions definitely drive the plot forward. His soliliques not only ensure he has a very intimate relationship with the audience, but they are the only dramatic device of the play. Although there is evidence to prove Iago is not racist, he is just jealous of Othello as he talks about Othello giving Cassio the promotion instead of him.
To us, he is the character who keeps the plot alive and full of action. His character was used recently by a critic, Germaine Greer when she compared Shakespearian with current times to emphasise her point. She stated, "we no longer feel, as Shakespeare's contemporaries did, the ubiquity of satin, but Iago is still serviceable to us, as an objective correlative of the mindless inventiveness of racist aggression. Iago is still alive and kicking and filling migrants letterboxes with excrement" So, it really is a question of, should the play have been called "Iago" instead of "Othello"?
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