Is Iago the hero of William Shakespeare's Othello?Iago is the villain in the play but he controls all the characters by his subterfuge. He has more dialogue than Othello in the play, and the plot...

Is Iago the hero of William Shakespeare's Othello?

Iago is the villain in the play but he controls all the characters by his subterfuge. He has more dialogue than Othello in the play, and the plot could be said to revolve more around his manipulation than the love story. Also the love life of Desdemona and Othello is destroyed by Iago.


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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In a sense, a discussion of the roles of Iago and Othello in William Shakespeare's Othello is really one of literary terminology. The terms "hero" and "villain" assess not the importance of the roles but the moral quality of the characters.

A set of more technical terms used by theatre critics would be "protagonist" (derived from a Greek word meaning first contests) and "antagonist" (from a Greek word meaning opponent). The protagonist is the leading character in the play, and also one whose fate is the main subject of the play. The antagonist is the main opponent.

Othello is the protagonist because the story revolves around something that happens to him and changes him (from loving husband and successful officer to madman and murderer). Iago, although tremendously important, as you mention, is a static character who does not develop over the course of the drama. His role is that of antagonist.

etotheeyepi's profile pic

etotheeyepi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I don't think I would call Iago heroic, but I vote for Iago as the main character or protagonist of Othello.  He is something like Brutus in Julius Caesar, or like Hamlet or Macbeth, who are also less than heroic.

mizradane's profile pic

mizradane | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Yes I agree with the above post. Yet, there are also proofs in the play to proove that Othello is a "Tragic Hero"

# He is of noble birth (in spite of being a black)

He himself declares this :

'Tis yet to know -

Which, when I know that boasting is an honour,

I shall provulgate - I fetch my life and being

From men of royal siege, and my demirits

May speak, unbonnted, to as proud a fortune

As this that I have reached.

#  The tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall.
# A reversal of fortune brought about by the hero's tragic flaw
# His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge
# The audience feels pity and fear for this character.


These qualities make him the tragic hero of the play. Which prooves that in spite of playing an important role, Iago is merely the villain of the piece.

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