Honest Iago1

“Honest” Iago
Perhaps the most interesting and exotic character in the tragic play “Othello,” by William Shakespeare, is “Honest” Iago. Through some carefully thought-out words and actions, Iago is able to manipulate others to do things in a way that benefits him and moves him closer toward his goals. He is the main driving force in this play pushing
many other characters towards their tragic end. By manipulating Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello, Iago strives with envy and plots to steal the position he feels he most justly deserves.
Iago is an expert judge of people and their characters and uses this to his advantage. For example, he knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and figures that he would do anything to have her as his own. Iago says about Roderigo, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse”(1002). Throughout the play, Iago leads Roderigo by the collar professing that he “hate(s) the Moor” and telling Roderigo to “make money” so that he can give gifts to Desdemona to win her over (1002). Through this technique, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from Roderigo, making himself a substantial profit, while using Roderigo to forward his other goals.
Cassio, like Roderigo, follows blindly, thinking the whole time that Iago is trying to help him. After the Turkish fleet was destroyed by the storm in act II, Iago acts like a friend to Cassio during the celebration and drinks with him. Knowing Cassio’s low tolerance for wine, Iago encourages another drink while he is on watch. Cassio just follows along although he says, “I’ll do’t, but it dislikes me”(1012). When Cassio follows through with the plan Iago set on him, Cassio is made to look like an irresponsible fool, resulting in his termination as lieutenant. He is envious of Michael Cassio and suspects that Othello has wronged his manor; but his malignancy is all out of proportion to even his alleged motives through which he shows his ambivalence of nature.
During the play, Othello holds Iago to be his close friend and advisor. He believes Iago to be a person, “of exceeding honesty, (who) knows all qualities, with learnèd spirit of human dealings”(1029). At the same time, Iago tricks Othello into believing that his own wife is having an affair without any concrete proof. Othello is so caught up in Iago’s lies that he refuses to believe Desdemona when she denies the whole situation. He uses the trust Othello puts in him to turn Othello eventually into a jealous man, looking everywhere.
Throughout the play, Iago slowly poisons people’s thoughts, creating ideas in their heads without implicating himself. “And what’s he then that says I play the villain, when this advice is free I give, and honest,” says Iago, the master of deception (1019). In the play Iago manipulates Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello, so he can steal the position he feels he deserves. During the play, characters rarely consider the possibility that Iago could be deceiving them or manipulating them, after all, he is “Honest Iago.”