For the play Othello, discuss the character of Iago and how he affects the tragedy of the play.

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Iago has often been called Shakespeare's greatest villians - I think him one of the greatest villians of all times.  A master at manipulation, and a man with no scruples, Iago plays the other characters of the tragedy like musical instruments.  He easily slants their perceptions and controls their actions.  Spurred on by jealousy and bitterness (he wasn't chosen for promotion and he suspects Othello of having had an affair with his wife), Iago puts events in motion that will affect all the people that he feesl have "wronged" him.

Iago convinces uses Othello's insecurity to convince him that Desdemona is having an affair.  He uses Emila's desire to please him to make her an accomplice, and Roderigo's guillable nature to do the same.  He uses Cassio's superiority and arrogance to dupe him easily as well, and make him a pawn in the game. 

In other words, Iago has played upon the tragic flaws of all the characters.  By doing so, he moves the tragedy forward to its tragic conclusion - Emilia, Desdemona, and Roderigo are killed; Othello kills himself.  However, he is trapped up by his own tragic flaw - his need for revenge - and is led off in chains at the end.

mm1771 | Student


Iago's character represents the vice of jealousy. Iago himself is a jealous individual which is one reason he wants to ruin Othello's life. He also suspects, briefly in Act One, that Othello and Emilia have been sleeping together.

Iago's character is also jealous incarnate. Iago states he will make Othello jealous therefore acting as an agent for jealousy in the play. (1.3 L 381 ff)