What are a few quotes from Othello that demonstrate Iago being each of these things: persuasive, clever, and evil.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Othello, Iago is like the Devil, a sly voice that plays upon fear and weakness.  First, he plays the race card against Othello, but that fails.  Then, he plays the jealousy card against Desdemona and Cassio, and it works like a charm.  Iago knows that Othello is insecure about his race, age, and status in the white world.  He especially knows that as a military man, he is distrustful of women.  So, he invents and elaborate scheme to destroy Othello through his woman.  When Othello demands proof of her infidelity, Iago says:

I do not like the office:
But, sith I am enter'd in this cause so far,
Prick'd to't by foolish honesty and love,
I will go on. I lay with Cassio lately;
And, being troubled with a raging tooth,
I could not sleep.
There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
That in their sleeps will mutter their affairs:
One of this kind is Cassio:
In sleep I heard him say 'Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves;'
And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
Cry 'O sweet creature!' and then kiss me hard,
As if he pluck'd up kisses by the roots
That grew upon my lips: then laid his leg
Over my thigh, and sigh'd, and kiss'd; and then
Cried 'Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!'

This psychological strategy angers Othello to no end.  Othello has been jealous of Cassio (who is everything that Othello is not: white, Christian, young).  This shows that Iago is very clever: he first uses psychological plants before he moves to physical evidence.

When Othello demands ocular proof, Iago brings out the handkerchief, the magical symbol of Othello's manhood and source of his jealousy:

I know not that; but such a handkerchief--
I am sure it was your wife's--did I to-day
See Cassio wipe his beard with.

Upon proof that Cassio has the handkerchief, Iago gets Othello to effectively divorce Desdemona and align himself with Iago.  His plan to kill her is not only persuasive but very clever: he knows that Othello will be put to death for the crime.  Othello says,

Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her!
Come, go with me apart; I will withdraw,
To furnish me with some swift means of death
For the fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant.

Proof of Iago's evil is easy to come by, but he is no more evil that when he uses his wife as a pawn in his twisted revenge plot.  He calls her

Villanous whore!


Filth, thou liest!

And then he stabs her.  Pure evil.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"I am not what I am" is a quotation from Iago in Act 1 Scene 1 of the play Othello by William Shakespeare, and shows us right from the very start that we should not trust him, or anything he says or does. We are forewarned and forearmed by Shakespeare to be on the lookout for Iago's evil duplicity. This gives the play tension and suspense from the very beginning. Iago then goes on to say that he will wear his heart on his sleeve for daws to peck at. His heart symbolizes his intentions and the fact he does not care what anyone thinks about him - other than how far he can persuade and manipulate them through his own conning behavior. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing and proud of it and his asides and speeches keep us in touch with his real motives of evil.