Compare lago and Othello's character in Othello.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Iago and Othello do, surprisingly, have similarities that may not be noticeable at first due to their stark differences.

  • Othello is vulnerable due to his insecurities. He is not Venetian; is a black man in a white society; is presumed to be many years older than his wife and lacks sophistication. Iago is able to manipulate a man

unsure of himself in civil society

 despite his initial confidence because Desdemona "had eyes and  chose me."

  • Iago is also insecure. He is emotionally threatened and aware of his own inferiority to Cassio in whose life he sees a "daily beauty." To add insult to injury, Cassio has been promoted above him and is "a Florentine" - not even Venetian. Such insecurities lead Iago though to ponder revenge

"I follow him to serve my turn upon him"

as having been usurped (in his view), he must make light of the situation to avoid the embarrassment it has caused him.

 

  • Othello is a military hero and has done well in battle.
  • Iago has conquests of his own on the battlefield.
  • Othello and Iago conspire together to reveal Desdemona and Cassio's alleged affair. Unfortunately, despite their different intentions, this fact makes them more alike and the consequences of their actions will be devastating, even though Othello believed he needed to " again thy former light restore", almost saving Desdemona from herself whereas Iago is an "eternal villain."

 

  • Othello becomes obsessed with the apparent proof that Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio. Iago is also obsessed with infidelity and believes Emilia has been unfaithful with Othello as Othello has "leap'd into my seat."
  • Othello and Iago are similar due to both feeling

excluded from upper-class Venetian society.

Othello's principles of loyalty and honor make it difficult for him to perceive malice in others and at the end he cannot conceive the wickedness of Iago, wondering if he indeed has cloven hooves for feet.

Their shared sense of inadequacy has reduced them both to the same end.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both men are outsiders in Venetian society: Iago in terms of class; Othello in terms of race. They are military men, men of action, who've achieved their place in the world due to their own efforts on the battlefield. But Iago is a deeply resentful man. He hasn't received what he believes to be his due. He hates Cassio for being promoted over him, expressing contempt for a man he believes to be little more than an upper-class dandy, without Iago's hardened battle experience.

But he also hates Othello. The Moor is even more of an outsider than Iago, yet it is Othello who's risen through the ranks, not him. For different reasons, Cassio and Othello stir Iago's deep, bitter resentment. Iago's reached the point where he's effectively given up on being accepted by the upper echelons of Venetian society, whereas Othello still very much yearns for their acceptance. If Venetian society won't accept Iago, then he'll do his best to undermine it, systematically destroying everyone above him—Othello, Cassio, Desdemona, and Roderigo.

The two men's insecurities extend beyond issues of class and race to matters of the heart. Both Othello and Iago are fiercely jealous. Iago is convinced that Othello has been sleeping with his wife, Emilia; this adds further fuel to his already burning resentment. And Othello, for his part, has been persuaded by Iago's crafty insinuations that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio.

Both men ultimately come to grief through their inability to restrain their emotions. The difference is that Othello's true self, his noble, decent, trusting self, is corrupted by the insecurities subtly woven into his mind by the scheming Iago. As for Iago, his character has never really changed; he's been full of bitterness, resentmen,t and insecurities right from the very start.