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How would you describe Iago in Othello?

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l3w1stn | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 4, 2009 at 5:45 AM via web

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How would you describe Iago in Othello?

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rshaffer | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted February 4, 2009 at 6:41 AM (Answer #1)

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Iago is one of my all time favorite characters.  Usually in literature, villains are created for the reader to hate, but Shakespeare has craftily made Iago a villain worthy of being liked. 

Iago's desire to get revenge on Othello is presented at times in a humorous way through the use of irony.  Iago is able to manipulate every character in the play as a pawn to carry out his plan of revenge.  As he is doing this, Iago reminds the audience that he is "honest."  The word honest is both ironic and true in describing Iago.  On the one hand, Iago using the word honest is ironic because his entire vow of revenge is saturated in deceit, yet, he truly is honest because he informs the reader of all of his intentions before they occur. 

He prides himself on knowing his victim and what will send him over the edge, which in this case is Othello's jealousy.  This egotistical trait, along with his arrogance, makes him a truly villainous character.  Yet, it is not Iago's egotistical trait that creates a liking for Iago, but rather, it is the fact that the audience shares the same sentiment about the stupidity by which the other characters are manipulated. 

As a result, Iago's "...pride and desire for power and control, along with his brilliant scheming and his jealousy, make Iago a fascinating, multi-faceted figure." 

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dfulton02 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 10, 2009 at 10:51 PM (Answer #2)

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Even though Iago seems to be a very complex character he is not.  He can be considered a stock character that shares the "Machiavelli" charactristics.  He does not have a comic scene to his character other than in an evil way and it seems that he is the only character in the play enjoying his evil with no loss of energy.  He is also sexist, racist, selfish, greedy and only valuing himself as an individual, however on the exterior he appears to have a friendly and concerning attitude towards others, but deep down he does not. 

His character never changes throughout the play, he is the archetype of true villainy.  The archetype of a villian can be characterized as "beautiful on the outside and pure evil on the inside"

Iago is a soldier and through research, some point out that Shakespeare made a blunder to the fact that when dealing with the correctness of a 'Soldier's character, love and jealousy are no part of a soldier's charateristrc, unless for a comedy" (Rymer).  And Othello was not a comedy. 

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