Iago, when No One is Looking

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Shakespeare's 1604 tragedy, Othello, describes the unfortunate tale of a Moor, who despite his race and origin, is reputed in Venice and beyond to be a brave and virtuous man who adheres to all the dictates of manliness in Renaissance society, yet is led to jealousy and murder by his seemingly-honest ancient, Iago.


Iago's soliloquies and asides, in contrast to his speeches in the presence of other characters, reveals quite clearly his deceitfulness and self-disguise. The audience is not duped for a moment, as, through dramatic irony and our privileged position, we come see that he is engaged in "double-knavery" (1.2.318), and not at all the "honest and true" Iago that others believe him to be. The audience would be amazed at the absolute faith that the character have in Iago's honesty, which we know to be a lie even from his first appearance onstage.
Iago's aim throughout the play is to "blacken" Othello's reputation to match the latter's face, in revenge for what he sees as a slight in Othello's appointing Cassio lieutenant over him. In his first soliloquy in Act I, scene iii, he gives three motives for his plotting: to fatten his purse (1.2.308), "to get [Cassio's] place" as lieutenant (1.2.318), and to make "sport" on Othello whom he hates (1.2.311). He later admits that he is somewhat in love with Desdemona, and reiterates his suspicion that "the lusty Moor/ Hath leap'd into [his] seat; the thought whereof/Doth gnaw at [his] inwards" (2.1.310-14), and that one of his motives is to be avenged "wife for wife" (2.1.315).
Jealousy, sus ...
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