Site Loader
Rock Street, San Francisco

Iago, a foolish troublemaker
or a clever planner?


Iago is a mysterious character and has a huge effect on the plot of the
play Othello. He is able to keep everything a secret to himself until
all his plans are discovered, at the end. Iago does not value certain things in
his life all which lead to his downfall. ” You have a thing for me? It is a
common thing- A good wench give it me.” (3.3.304,316) shows how he disrespects
his own wife until he finds her useful to his plan. In this play, with
approximately 1100 lines Iago has more lines than any other character, even the
main character himself. One question that comes to mind was this enough for
Shakespeare to separate Iago from other villains in his plays? Iago’s
characteristics enable him to have influence on others, to the level that his
conversation with Othello in Act III, Scene iii can be considered among one of
the best displays of persuasive skills ever penned. All of his perfectly
planned actions and skills come together, enabling Iago to secretly manipulate
all his targets. Therefore, Iago is a true evil genius who is capable of
effectively fool the people around him.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now


This play needed a special villain who could easily undo the honorable
moor and his beautiful wife. Shakespeare would have not been able to develop
such character without making him an expert in using the language. Iago can be
modeled after the mountebanks, as Mirabella describes both Iago and the
mountebanks, glib, charismatic and smooth talking. All mountebanks’
entertainments and Iago’s use of words can be similar when considering their
ultimate goals of fooling people. Although people often thought they cared
about them when buying their remedies, what mountebanks truly wanted was to
make a lot of money. In the opening scene, we can see Iago using the power of
language to convince Roderigo to awaken Brabantio, telling him that the moor had
stolen his daughter. After this Roderigo who is controlled by his emotions
thinks that Iago is doing this from the bottom of heart not knowing that Iago
was only doing this to “pinpoint the enemy” with him. If Roderigo considers
Othello as an unequal match for the fair venetian girl, his anger and hate
towards the moor grows. This only benefits Iago since new Roderigo is now
willing to do anything to eliminate their common enemy. Iago also had the
ability to provoke laugher using the language. “humor can transform words into
drugs as people will like and trust someone who can make them laugh.”
(Mirabella 6) One example of comedy is found in Act II, Scene i where Desdemona
waits for Othello’s delayed arrival in Cyprus. “Often in Shakespeare the
inconsequentiality of an episode relative to a play’s plot alerts us to its
significance in other terms.” (Zender 2) So here Othello didn’t arrive later
than Desdemona’s for any plot reason but perhaps to allow Shakespeare to develop
some characteristics he could have not developed elsewhere, one being Iago’s
humor. While waiting Iago and Desdemona enter an argument over woman and their
place in society. The argument is comical because of its main point which is
absurd and is lacking logic. “rise to play, and go to bed to work” using these
words Iago describes his perspective towards woman by saying that they are lazy
in all matter except sex. This adds comic to the scene as Desdemona plays
along, laughing to Iago’s continuous references to sex. Also, the great use of
intimation when talking, allows Iago to keep his plans and true intentions
always a secret to himself. “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the
green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” here without directly
talking about what he thinks he gives the curious Othello hints that make him
question why should I be jealous? Of whom? When influencing characters this
lets Iago stay hidden as they always think that Iago did not have any inputs in
the decision they made.


The second reason making the audience believe that Iago is truly one of
Shakespeare’s most intelligent villains, is Iago’s ability to use everyone
around him in a way to progress his plan. Iago uses people on strength of his
reputation, making them follow any of his suggestions. Roderigo is one of the
characters being used the most by Iago throughout the play. Iago needs Roderigo
for his money and services he cannot do himself without going unmasked. Roderigo
desperately seeks Desdemona’s love. Iago who is aware of this, starts using him
in any way he can, promising him a pleasant future. One of the crucial uses of
Roderigo by Iago happens when Iago takes Roderigo’s money, lying about fulfilling
his needs. Also, in Act II, Scene iii Roderigo is secretly sent off by Iago to
pick a fight with drunk Cassio. Iago who is scared of being blamed by Othello
does not start the fight himself. This allows him to defend Cassio when Othello
demands to know how the fighting began. This becomes helpful to Iago’s plan as
Cassio who finds Iago caring takes his advice of talking to Desdemona into
consideration. Deception of Cassio leads us to the next point showcasing how
Iago uses characters cleverly. “for Michael Cassio, I dare be sworn I think
that he is honest” (3.3.65) with clever use of hesitation earlier in the scene
bringing up Michael Cassio’s name lets Othello to make connections on his own. This
shows how Iago successfully uses Cassio to make Othello jealous, advancing his
plan as the moor becomes more suspicious to his wife.


Despite being an eloquent orator and skilled in using people, Iago would
have not come out a winner if he was not a quick problem solver. Therefore, taking
advantage of quick situations is the last reason making Iago a genius. In Act
IV, Scene i Othello has a long conversation with Iago demanding for more evidences,
that prove Desdemona is a cheater. Iago who is short on answers knows that he
needs to provide Othello with a solid evidence, therefore, setting up a plan as
he sees Michael Cassio approaching. He tells Othello to hide, staging a
conversation with Cassio, making it look like they are talking about Desdemona
as Othello overhears. In fact, they were only talking Bianca, the prostitute
that is in love with Cassio. “she did deceive her father, marrying you” (3.3 ,208)
shows Iago giving Othello another evidence using logic. This contributes as a
proof to Iago’s masterly in fast thinking. This is because Iago remembers
Brabantio from court saying: “she has deceived her father, and may thee” (1.2,
289-290) in the right place at the right time. Iago uses the fact that
Desdemona disobeyed his father to remind Othello that she would do the same to
him, claiming that Desdemona is a liar. These two quick solutions Iago comes up
with in these crucial moments are brilliant in the way they gave Othello
concrete evidence that his Venetian wife is having an affair with his former
lieutenant. Later in Act V, Scene i Iago sends Roderigo to ambush Cassio. The
attack does not go as planned, therefore Iago takes action by wounding Cassio
from behind. Iago who is afraid of being caught quickly makes up his mind once
more blaming Bianca, who comes in asking about what happened. “what is the
matter ho, who isn’t that cried?” (5.1 ,74) After that he tries to divert
attention from himself even more, by blaming Bianca two more times.


In the past successful mountebanks and merchants ran the shows in the
streets, selling anything to the gullible people passing by. This is similar to
the play Othello where the charismatic deceiver who Shakespeare
developed, runs the show selling anything to the characters that are easily
fooled. These characters, however, unlike a lot of people around the world
don’t complain about being surrounded by people who don’t understand the
concept of loyalty and honesty as they all have a friend who they call “honest
Iago” to the last moment. Iago achieves this through great use of language and
building up a great reputation. Because of his strong bonds of trust and his influence
on characters they always follow his orders. When he is not prepared he takes
advantage of the situations by evaluating them really well. All which advance
his plan of ruining Othello’s life without him ever being suspected, proving
that he is in fact a genius of manipulation.

Post Author: admin


I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out