Iaga in Shakespeare\'s Othello
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 Othello
and everyone else towards their tragic end.
Iago is not your ordinary villain. The role he
plays is rather unique and complex, far from what one might
expect. Iago is smart. He 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." [Act I, Scene III, Line 355] By playing on his
hopes, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from
Roderigo, making himself a substantial profit, while using
Roderigo to forward his other goals. He also thinks quick
on his feet and is able to improvise whenever something
unexpected occurs. When Cassio takes hold of Desdemona\'s
hand before the arrival of the Moor Othello, Iago says,
"With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly
as Cassio." [Act II, Scene I, Line 163] His cunning and
craftiness make him a truly dastardly villain indeed.
Being as smart as he is, Iago is quick to recognize
the advantages of trust and uses it as a tool to forward his
purposes. Throughout the story he is commonly known as, and
commonly called, "Honest Iago." He even says of himself, "I
am an honest man...." [Act II, Scene III, Line 245] Trust
is a very powerful emotion that is easily abused. Othello,
"holds [him] well;/The better shall [Iago\'s] purpose work on
him." [pg. 1244, Line 362] Iago is a master of abuse in
this case turning people\'s trust in him into tools to
forward his own goals. His "med\'cine works! Thus credulous
fools are caught...." [pg. 1284, Line 44] 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," [Act II, Scene III, Line 299] says Iago, the master
of deception. And thus, people rarely stop to consider the
possibility that old Iago could be deceiving them or
manipulating them, after all, he is "Honest Iago."
Iago makes a fool out of Roderigo. In fact, the
play starts out with Iago having already taken advantage of
him. Roderigo remarks, "That thou, Iago, who hast had my
purse as if the strings were thine." [Act I, Scene I, Line
2] Throughout the play, Iago leads Roderigo by the collar
professing that he "hate(s) the Moor" [Act I, Scene III,
Line 344] and telling Roderigo to "make money" [Act I, Scene
III, Line 339] so that he can give gifts to Desdemona to win
her over. During the whole play however, Iago is just
taking those gifts that Roderigo intends for Desdemona and
keeps them for himself. Roderigo eventually starts to
question Iago\'s honesty, saying "I think it is scurvy, and
begin to find myself fopped in it." [Act IV, Scene II, Line
189] When faced with this accusation, Iago simply offers
that killing Cassio will aid his cause and Roderigo blindly
falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. "I have no great
devotion to the deed, and yet he has given me satisfying
reason," [Act V, Scene I, Line 8] says the fool Roderigo.
And with this deed, Roderigo is lead to his death by the
hands of none other than, "Honest Iago."
Cassio, like Roderigo, follows Iago blindly,
thinking the whole time that Iago is trying to help him.
And during this whole time, Iago is planning the demise of
Cassio, his supposed friend. On the night of Cassio\'s
watch, Iago convinces him to take another drink, knowing
very well that it will make him very drunk. Cassio just
follows along, though he says, "I\'ll do\'t, but it dislikes
me." [Act II, Scene III, Line 37] Iago is