What are five adjectives that describe Iago in Othello?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Five adjectives that describe Iago are the following:

Devious: Iago goes to great lengths to set up Othello's fall, planting false ideas in his head about Desdemona and, in general, staying two steps ahead of the game. It is striking the extent to which Iago lays plans that misdirect people and lead to tragic misinterpretations. In his soliloquy in Act I, Iago tells the audience that he will "abuse Othello's ear/that he [Cassio] is too familiar with his wife." We watch as Iago successfully pursues his entrapment of Othello throughout the play.

Duplicitous: We could also call Iago two-faced. He pretends to be Othello's loyal servant with nothing but his interests at heart while all the time preying on his weaknesses and insecurities in order to destroy him. Iago says, "But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at: I am not what I am." He also says, "Though I do hate him [Othello] ... I must show out a flag and sign of love." The irony of the play is that other characters take him at face value, but we, as the audience, know he is "not what I am [pretend]."

Discontented: From the start, Iago, passed over for promotion and feeling unappreciated, seethes with discontent over his lot. 

Malicious: Coleridge famously described Iago as operating from "motiveless Malignity." While Iago does have ostensible motives for what he does, the extent of his malice seems disproportionate to what has been done to him (not receiving a promotion, his jealousy of Cassio). Most of us handle our problems without lashing out as Iago does. He does seem, at some level, to simply desire evil for evil's sake.

Misogynist: Iago believes women are untrustworthy and sexually unfaithful. He says, for instance, to Cassio: "Look to your wife ... in Venice they [women] do let God see the pranks/They dare not show their husbands." Iago could be lying to Cassio, but he is persistent throughout the play in characterizing women as whores. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many adjectives that can be used to describe Iago. He is obviously very cunning. He is vicious. We see this in the way he murders Roderigo, who trusts him. Iago is envious. He hates anybody who has more than he does. He hates Othello and Cassio especially. Othello is a better man in every respect, and Othello has the beautiful Desdemona. Cassio is better than Iago in belonging to a higher social class, being better-looking, better-educated, and having a higher military rank. All of these things make Iago burn with envy and hatred.

Iago is duplicitous. This duplicity is one of his most striking characteristics. He is completely dishonest, but he acts as if he is completely open and honest. A synonym for duplicitous is "two-faced."

He is also bolddaringaudacious, courageous, and probably a brave soldier. He is resourceful. He is always taking chances of being exposed as a villain, and he finally does get exposed by his wife Emilia.

Iago is witty in a sardonic way. He enjoys being evil and in deceiving people who trust him. He is vulgar. He expresses low opinions of everybody. He thinks everybody is as selfish, immoral, and licentious as himself.

Perhaps the best five adjectives would be: