is a tragic play which comprises with the elements of tragedies. Tragedy play
usually has an ending with destruction, unhappy or death. Shakespeare uses the
title “The Tragedie of Othello, the moore of Venice” which gives hint to the
reader or audience of the play that Othello is a moor who is the tragic hero in
this play. He is a victim of the conspiracy of the antagonist, Iago. The
devilish Iago never agrees on the love and marriage of Othello and Desdemona.
Iago hates Othello predominantly for his leading role in the Venetian army
though he is from different race. Also, Othello, a black skinned moor breaks
the social norms by marrying the higher class woman, Desdemona. The death of
the protagonist proves the play as a tragedy. Iago drives Othello to be
destroyed since Othello has blind trust on Iago and he accepts Iago’s all
falsehood without justification. The actual fact is that Iago is a devilish,
manipulative, clever, dishonest person. He injects many ill ideas into Roderigo
and cassio’s mind as well as Othello. So, literary critic F.R Leavis claims that
Iago only succeeds because he represented something that is already inside
Othello’s mind while critic A.C Bradley thinks Othello is victimized and
manipulated by the evil Iago.
Iago is the most
devilish and manipulative character in the play. He drives almost every
character for his own purposes. He says “I’m not what I’m” (Pacheco &
Johnson, 2012) which puzzles over his mysterious personality and intentions. It
implies that he is not the person as how everyone sees him. His inner self is
different from the outer. He treats others as fools and has no time for soft
hearted emotion. He believes in deceiving and lying for gain. What his good is
bad for others though people trust him but he cheats on them frequently without
hesitation (McCulloch and Carey, 2017). He seems very friendly and honest to
Othello which is completely distorted appearance of Iago. It’s reveals from
Iago’s soliloquy that “his motivation and plans are to use Cassio to bring
Othello down and his marriage life with Desdemona” (Pacheco & Johnson,
2012). He hates Othello because of his race and color. Moreover, he thinks he
deserves the position of lieutenant in place of Cassio which is passed over by
the General, Othello’s order. Iago says he thinks Othello may have slept with
his wife, Emilia: “It is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets / He has done my
office”. Iago mentions this suspicion again, explaining that he lusts after
Desdemona because he wants to get even with Othello “wife for wife” (SparkNotes
Editors, 2002). Overflowing with jealousy and hatred, Iago manipulates
Roderigo, Cassio, Emilia, Desdemona and Othello himself to take revenge on
Othello. He says, “were I the Moor, I would not be Iago: In following him, I
follow but myself…….I will wear my heart upon my sleeve” (Pacheco &
Johnson, 2012). His figurative and metaphorical language expresses his disrespect
and negative tone towards Othello. He says that he shows love and respect for
Othello to gain what he wants. He doesn’t uncover his inner feelings to others.
Shakespeare presents the antagonist, Iago in a very sophisticated way.
He has the mischievous and evil personality that helps him out to bluff most of
the characters of the tragedy “Othello”. To mislead someone, dishonesty and
lies are the destructive weapons. Iago exposes to everyone that he wants goods
for others. Thus, everyone believes him and falls in his deception. He has a
reputation for honesty and plain-speaking. He provokes Roderigo against Othello
and Desdemona claiming that his lover, Desdemona eloped with Othello as
Roderigo is deeply in love with desdemona. Roderigo performs according to Iago’s
tricky suggestions. Subsequently, Roderigo is
killed at the hand of “honest friend Iago” He manipulates Cassio to drink and
break the discipline among the soldiers. Consequently, following Iago’s
friendly instructions, he loses his job and goes to Desdemona for convincing Othello.
The villain Iago produces evidence that he is Othello’s well-wisher and close
friend. Othello says, “Iago is most honest” (Neill, 2006). Iago has much
temptation of Othello because Iago wants the power what is in the hand of
Othello. For the reason of that, Iago desires to get revenge and spoil his
life. By whispering of illegitimate relation between Desdemona and Cassio, he
manipulates Othello and bluffs him. Othello doesn’t verify him rather believes him
blindly that eventually causes Othello and his wife’s death. Iago utilizes other’s
weaknesses to bluff and fool them and he succeeds ultimately.
Villain Iago can be blamed because of his innate evil, jealousy, cunning and
manipulating nature for the destruction of the tragic hero, Othello. He exposes
his hatred for Othello, and the fact that he thinks Othello has cuckolded him
(that is, slept with his wife Emilia). His plan is to use Othello’s ‘free and
open nature’ against him (Pacheco & Johnson, 2012). He points out
Othello’s hamartia and transmits jealousy into Othello’s mind concerning
Desdemona’s illegal relationship. Another point is Iago’s enmity and bitterness
piles up for the reason of the General’s color and race. But the fact is that
he enjoys the pains and sufferings he causes to others. He is driven by his
pure destructive wickedness which is not justifiable. Iago’s ill-feeling
towards the general Othello exists even before the appointment of Cassio as his
lieutenant. His purpose to hate and take revenge on Othello is actually for nothing
but his inborn devilish nature which forges him a villain. Iago poisons Othello
with his lies. Iago’s sinister motives are never made clear. He doesn’t destroy
Othello because of any established reasonable issues. It is seen that he brings
up many contemptuous reasons but those are not justifiable. Treachery and lies
are his inherent characteristics.
behavior echo Venetian prejudices and intolerance towards Othello, the moor who
managed to occupy a very prestigious and critical place in their society. Iago calls
repeatedly, the General of the Venetian army Othello as a “moor” because of his
color and race. The moors were the Muslim inhabitants of North Africa who used
to be slaves for the high social stratum. He says “moorship” instead of
“worship” for the reason that he thinks Othello is not worth to be a General in
the army. With imagery and figurative language, Iago provokes Desdemona’s
father by saying “an old black ram (Othello) is tupping your (Brabantio’s)
white ewe” (Neill, 2006, pg. 203). The color black refers to barbaric,
uncivilized and evil person. He refers to an animalistic sexual activity of an
evil person. Joseph Suglia mentions in his “An Analysis of THE TRAGEDY OF
OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE” that Brabantio is clearly a hardcore racist idiot
who thinks that all North Africans are witches and warlocks and that Othello,
therefore, could only win his daughter through ensorcellment: “Damned as thou
art, thou hast enchanted her” (Neill, 2006, pg. 213) (Suglia, 2015). The
Venetian society was highly stratified and the center of civilization where the
people prejudice other ethnicities and black is the symbol of devil to them
consistently. So the black-skinned Othello is humiliated by the Venetian racist
representative Brabantio, Iago and the society itself.
critics have different opinions on who is to blame of destructing the tragic
hero. Some critics blame Iago for his devilish activities towards Othello and
some others blame Othello for his own destruction. One of the most famous
literary critics A.C Bradley claims, “The undoing of the noble Moor by the
devilish cunning of Iago,” (Bradley, 1904). He accuses that Iago’s bitterness
and ill feeling because of some idiotic factors knock down Othello and the
tragedy. Othello is a strong man. If he trusts, he trusts strongly. If he
loves, he loves blindly. Another point is, Desdemona is an innocent, helpless
reserved woman who doesn’t clarify the claim to her husband. So, he is
manipulated easily by the cunning Iago’s lies and destroys. While literary
critic F. R. Leavis strongly attacks the Bradley view, asserting that “the
plain fact is that in Shakespeare’s tragedy of Othello, Othello is the chief personage – the chief personage in
such a sense that the tragedy may fairly be said to be Othello’s character in
action. Iago is subordinate and merely ancillary” (Leavis, 1963). He believes
Othello’s weakness is anyone can mislead him and he can be influenced easily. Again,
he doesn’t justify Iago’s claim against his wife. Othello
feels insecure as he is a black skinned man and a moor who gets married to a
white woman of social hierarchy. Ultimately, Othello’s fatal flaws cause his
Shakespeare intended Iago to hide his inner feelings and thought from
others. He set up Iago’s character as liar and deceitful and placed some
beautiful words into his mouth. Shakespeare built the
character of Iago from an idea already existing in the theatrical culture of
his time: the Devil in religious morality plays, which developed into the
villain in Elizabethan drama and tragedy (McCulloch and Carey, 2017). Iago’s
character was presented to twist the play and turn it into a tragic play. For
instance, he induces Roderigo against the so called black moor, Othello. The
most crucial part is that when he provokes Othello against his own wife claiming
of her unlawful relationship with Michael Cassio. In addition, Iago’s killing
Emilia proves that he has hatred of woman. Compiling all the factors, he destroys
Emilia, Roderigo and desdemona to destroy Othello. The True fact is that,
Othello’s hamartia is the most helpful advantages for Iago to ruin his life.
Moreover, Othello feels insecure because he is the outsider and immigrant of
Venice. Capturing his effective flaws, Iago fills Othello’s mind with immense
enviousness. Obsessed with jealousy, Othello kills his wife including himself by
committed suicide. Hence, the mischievous act of Iago destroys the tragic hero
and ends up the tragedy in this way. But the actual fact is that Iago is the
wicked and immoral from his inner self. Though, Leavis blames Othello for the
destruction, Bradley claimes the opposite and my opinion is corresponded to A.C
Bradley. Indeed his judge and belief is fair and justified.
*Walder, D. (2012).
William Shakespeare, Othello: Honesty and difference, men and women. In: A.
Pacheco and D. Johnson, ed. 1st ., The Renaissance and Long Eighteenth Century.
London: Bloomsbury Academic.
D. (2012). William Shakespeare, Othello: impediments to love. In: A. Pacheco
and D. Johnson, ed. 1st ., The Renaissance and Long Eighteenth Century. London:
*”How can Iago be
blamed for Othello’s downfall?” eNotes, 10 May 2016, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/how-can-iago-be-blamed-for-othellos-downfall-703661.
Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.
A. C. (1904) Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear,
Macbeth. London, Macmillan.
F. R. (1963) ‘Diabolic Intellect and the noble hero’ in The Common Pursuit.
(ed. 2006) Othello, The Moor of Venice. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
(2006). The Oxford Shakespeare Othello. Ed. 1st. United States:
Oxford University Press inc. New York.
Helen, and Gary Carey. CliffsNotes on Othello. (09 Dec 2017)