In Othello, how does Shakespheare use Iago as a means by which to establish a rapport with the audience?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many arguments that support an admiration for Iago; however, there are also any people who would be too embarrassed, or feel guilty, at expressing any positive connection with Iago - for obvious reason. Others wish they were more like Iago or would even dare to do some of the things he does.

His character appears complex as it is difficult to understand his motives when the actions against him are not worth killing for but his scheming and seeming ablity to find opportunity around every corner  draws in readers and audiences and creates intrigue and drama.  This people respect. Iago's ability to manipulate situations and people leads to some describing him as "a brilliant opportunist ."

Sameul Taylor Coleridge described Iago as a "motiveless malignity." He gains Othello's trust but this is not enough for him and he feels maligned at being (supposedly) passed-over for promotion. The famous words used to describe him: "honest Iago": reveal his complete hold over the other characters, not only Othello.

Audiences would feel safe watching Othello and admiring Iago as, after all, it is fiction and as much as some people may wish they could exact their revenge on others, they can only fantasize about such wickedness.. After all, how often does anyone meet such a" fascinating, multi-faceted figure?" It is not necessary to agree with this statement to appreciate Shakespeare's clever creation - surely no one person could actually be everything that is Iago!   

Dramatic irony is entrenched in Othello through Iago's character. Iago is fully aware of the virtues of the other characters and even feels usurped by them.   

Iago is devil-like in his determination to destroy others in the cruelest way and can therefore even be compared to Satan!  This fact is acknowledged by Shakespeare when Othello, upon Iago's arrest, looks to see if Iago has cloven hooves:

"I look down towards his feet; but that's a fable" (V.ii.287).

Shakespeare does seem to recognize his own responsibility to his audience as he wants people to understand that Iago must be punished because

 His skill at lying leads only to destruction and chaos.

Any reward that Iago receives is short-lived and ultimately his actions lead to his own downfall. Audiences must therefore be wary of respecting someone like that.