How might the character of Iago be described as "Machiavellian"? What is the meaning of "Machiavel". How might the character of Iago be described as "Machiavellian"?

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) most famous work, The Prince, was his observations of how people in power operate.  The fact that the work continues to be read and argued over suggests that his observations unfortunately were accurate.  One of the precepts in The Prince is the "compartmentalization" of people -- in other words, telling one person or group one thing, and another group or person something else to achieve some end, even if what was stated later contradicts what was stated earlier.  Politicians do this all the time, promising tax cuts when speaking to the wealthy and additional government aid when speaking to the poor.

In Othello, Iago makes a speech where he shows to the audience his intent -- to enmesh all the characters to advance his own cause -- telling Othello that Desdemona is advocating for Cassio because she is his secret lover, when in fact, she is attempting to rectify his demotion in rank and repair the rift between Cassio and Othello, which was also manipulated and caused by Iago!

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Elizabethan culture, a "Machiavel" was almost considered a Satanic figure who sought to manipulate other persons for selfish reasons, often with an intent of destroying them. Rather than behaving virtuously and selflessly, a Machiavel was a figure who stereotypically was motivated by pride and selfishness and even by evil.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Iago does what he needs to do to accomplish his goals. He is willing to resort to lying, cheating and trickery to get what he wants. This is Machiavellian because he gains power by manipulation of others, such as Othello and Desdemona, and the ends justify the means.