The Many Evils of Iago

Catherine Elizabeth Bedsole
Professor Williams
English 2205AC
23 July 2001
The Many Evils of Iago
Iago is a man of jealousy, and he is proposing revenge against Cassio and Othello. " He claims both Cassio and Othello have seduced his wife, Emilia, a warm-hearted, simple woman. He proposes, as revenge of wife for wife, to put Othello into such a jealousy as judgement can cure" (Jorgensen 59). "We know therefore from the start why Iago hates Othello . . . " (Modern 3). Iago\'s hatred for the Moor is deep, and there is apparently reason. The Ten Commandments teach us to love thy neighbor and to not steal. It seems that Othello has in a sense broken both those rules, or at least that is what Iago wants us to believe. By trying to seduce Emilia he is not loving thy neighbor, and he is trying to steal Iago\'s wife. The Bible also says not to seek revenge, but to love thy enemy; therefore, Iago is going to also break some rules.
Iago is often referred to as "honest" Iago. This is because he is hiding behind an "exterior of the plain soldier and blunt, practical man of the world . . . " ( Tragedies 19). "Iago is the exact opposite of whatever he appears to be . . . " ( Eagleton 69). Iago\'s mask has grown to his face and is irremovable" (Evans 117). When a person appears to be so honest yet is so deceitful it seems hard that the person would not be exposed for whom they really are. "Iago does not put his mask on after the action commences, he has presumably worn it from birth onwards- or at least from the start of his military career" (117). It also seems hard to believe that Iago does not eventually believe what he says. "Step by step, Iago falls into his own gap of being, changing as he hears himself plot, improvising a drama that must destroy the dramatist as well as his protagonists" (Modern 3). When someone tells a lie so many times it can eventually become the truth to the person lying. Iago believes that he can "exploit signs and forms from the outside while remaining..unscathed by the consequent mystification" (Eagleton 69).
Iago\'s plans are carried out by causing sexual jealousy. The successes of his plans depend on "his pose of unswerving honesty - a pose which none of the other characters, not even his wife, is able to penetrate" (Scragg 52). The other people involved in Iago\'s plan have no idea what is about to happen to them. Iago uses their ignorance to destroy all of them. " All are oblivious of the false mind behind the ‘honest\' mask and of the many specific machinations by which they are victimized" (Evans 116). Even though Iago is accused of all these evil deeds, that are not revealed until the end of the play, it can still be reduced to look like a minute act. "Iago can be reduced to a resourceful intriguer who exposes the hero\'s weakness to ridicule and devises an appropriate punishment," says Mehl in Shakespeare\'s Tragedies: An Introduction.
In order to first fool Othello, Iago must victimize several other people. "Iago\'s success in fooling Othello is but the culmination of a series of such betrayals that includes the duping of Roderigo, Brabantio, and Cassio. Each duping is the explanatory image of the other, for in ever case Iago\'s method and end are the same: he plays on and teases to life some hitherto controlled and concealed dark passion in his victim. In each case he seeks in some way the same end, the symbolic murder of Desdemona, the destruction in some form of the life principle of which she is the major embodiment" ( Tragedies 80-81).
Iago thinks that Desdemona is somewhat trying to get a little too far out of her shoes. He thinks that she is trying to have some control in the home. "For Iago the "house" or "home" is the place where a woman belongs, and the notion of displacement elaborates or exaggerates other feminine trespasses against masculine notions of order and propriety" (Garner and Sprengnether 180). "Emilia, too, is accused by Iago of speaking out of place and is