Othello “Tush, never tell me! I take it much unkindly/ that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse/ as if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this./” (I. i. 1-3) From the beginning of Othello, Iago is portrayed as an antagonist, a villain who acts out of only his own interest. The acts that Iago engages in throughout Shakespeare’s Othello are erroneous acts. Iago is not insane and he can comprehend the difference between right and wrong. Shakespeare is known for his ability to focus on human flaws and teach us lessons from their misfortune.
Iago’s destiny with evil is due to his own flaws, jealousy, selfishness, and deceit. Because of these insecurities, Iago will stop at nothing to get even with Othello. By the end of the play, Iago becomes blind to all other aspects of life and solely focuses on his enemy. By using and exploiting others’ flaws, Iago pollutes all with his deceit and lies, turning them against each other to get what he wants. This evil villain makes sure he gets what he wants by taking advantage of the gullible characters no matter what the cost. When Iago tells Othello that Brabantio will try to annul his marriage to Desdemona, Othello replies that what he has done (as general of the Venetian army) for Venice will outweigh anything that Brabantio can say, “Let him do his spite./ My services which I have the signiory/ which shall out-tongue his complaints. ‘Tis yet to know/ which, when I know that boasting is an honor,/ I shall promulgate – I fetch my life and being from men of royal siege.” (I.
ii. 18-27) In the beginning of the play, Othello is clearly confident in his prowess as a respectable military general and elite man of the time. He has no concerns with Desdemona’s father and feels he can have whatever he wants because of his status. Othello is already allowing his head to swell and overlook any possible conflict. He is not at all worried and so his demise begins. Iago’s jealousy is depicted early when he is suspicious of Othello pursuing his own wife, Emilia.
Iago tries to have Desdemona’s father do the work for him, but it does not work. Iago’s rage grows and in the end of act I, he reveals his plan. “The moor is of a free and open nature/ that thinks men honest that but seem to be so;/ and will as tenderly be led by th’ nose/ as asses are./ I hav’t! It is engend’red! Hell and night/ must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light./” (I. iii. 380-385) Iago is filled with hate for the Moor and his whole life is now consumed with revenge.
Also at the end of the first scene in Cyprus, Iago speaks of his own motivations for his deceit. He says of Desdemona, “Now I do love her too;/ not out of absolute lust, though for peradventure/ I do stand accountant for as great a sin,/ but partly led to diet my revenge/ for that I do suspect the lusty Moor/ hath leaped into my seat.” (II. i. 268-272) He desired revenge for his own suspicion that Othello has gone to bed with Emilia. It is was killing on the inside and Iago would not be happy, “Till I am evened with him, wife for wife;/ or failing so, yet that I put the Moor/ at least into a jealousy so strong/ that judgement cannot cure.” (II.
i. 276-279) He reveals that he wants to kill Othello from the inside, make him succumb under his own power. Othello was married happily to Desdemona, but Iago planted some doubts in Othello’s mind concerning her “unchaste” lifestyle. Iago told Othello that his wife had been unfaithful and was “lying in Cassio’s bed” while they were married. Othello chose to believe this false story that Iago schemes up, and because of this his marriage was destroyed. All he could think about was his sweet Desdemona having a relationship with his first lieutenant. In doing this, he was also acting out of selfishness for not being promoted as Cassio was.
“One Michael Cassio, a Florentine/ a fellow almost damned in a fair wife/ that never set a squadron in the field,/ nor the division of a battle knows./” (I. i. 20-23) His selfishness is evident for he is not at all happy or pleased that his friend has been honored, he can only focus on himself. Iago easily deceived Othello, but what Othello did not realize was that Iago was good at what he did. He didn’t know Roderigo was also helping him with his plot.
He manipulated his wife Emilia to bring him the Moor’s handkerchief that he gave to Desdemona to plant in Cassio’s room. This eventually lead to Othello finding Cassio with the handkerchief and falsely verifying Desdemona’s affair with Cassio. Iago hinted all the time about his evil plan like in Act III, Scene III where he warned Othello to, “Beware, my lord, of jealousy!/ It is a green-eyed monster, which doth mock./ The meet it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss/ who, certain of his fate, loves no wronger;/ but O, what damned minutes tell he o’er/ who dotes, yet doubts – suspects loves!/” (III. iii. 164-170) Iago was well aware of what he was doing with Othello.
His actions here are completely for his own benefit and he has been blinded by his rage. Othello told Iago at the beginning of the play that he loved Desdemona. Explaining to Iago why he deserved her, Othello said that he loved her so much that he had given up some precious freedom. He said, “But that I love the gentle Desdemona,/ I would not my unhoused free condition/ put into circumscription and confine/ for the sea’s worth.” (I. i. 25-28) The idea is that both the value of his freedom and the strength of his love would be great and would not die.
After Iago lied to Othello he saw Desdemona as an unfaithful wife. The person, whom he loved and was married to, he did not believe. Iago’s deceptiveness is perfectly executed here and Othello obviously has no clue as to what is really going on. Othello has now placed more trust into Iago then into his own wife. Iago is able to expose Othello’s tragic flaw, naiveness, and easily is able to fog Othello’s mind. Iago knew that pulling off his scheme would be difficult and said on the eve of Othello’s plan to kill his wife and Iago to kill Cassio, “This is the night/ that either makes me or fordoes me quite./” (V.
ii. 129-130) As Iago speaks to Roderigo, he reveals some interesting points. “Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago./ In following him, I follow but myself;/ heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,/ but seeming so, for my peculiar end;/ for when my outward action doth demonstrate/ the native act and figure of my heart./” (I. i. 59-62) Iago reveals that he has lost all respect and loyalty to Othello and is only concerned about the consequences that will await him by God. He believes that he is doing well, that God will reward him for acting nobly and for his cause. This is an excellent example of his selfishness because Iago doesn’t care about what happens to anyone else or whom he hurts to get what he feels he deserves.
A great puppeteer, Iago is a deceitful man driven by selfishness. He is the one who runs the show making the characters say what he wants to hear with his cunning ways. He deceives the Othello and Roderigo who he claims to love. By noticing and using others’ flaws, Iago successfully avenged his grudge against Othello, Roderigo, and Desdemona. He steps over everything and everyone in his way to get what he wants and his ways will in turn ultimately end the play in tragedy.