Apr 1, 2021 in Literature

Iago's Evil Nature

Othello is the tragedy about the collision of two worlds, the world of good with the world of evil presented by the absolute cynic manipulator Iago. William Shakespeare, the author of the drama, gives the hints about the nature of Iago, the villain with his own philosophy, at the first emergence of the hero. Iago represents the combination of smart cruelty and improbable logic accompanying all his acts. Being guided by the exact knowledge of psychological features of people, which he plays in the intrigues, the lieutenant plans several moves ahead. He catches Roderigo in the passionate love to Desdemona, Othello - in the fear to lose the harmony found in the relations with the Venetian, Cassio - in the kindness and natural naivety, Emilia - in the weak will. Thus, since Iago is simple and usual, his evil is not caused by the wicked supernatural powers, but by his inability to receive the promotion in the service for Othello.


Serving the Moor, Iago, who is plebeian both by his nature and origin, could not receive the promotion in his service. Nahvi states that Iagos jealousy originates from his dissatisfaction towards Othello who happens to promote the lieutenant post to Michael Cassio, the less experienced soldier, instead of him. He cannot stand happiness of Othello and Desdemona. He is cunning, artful, envious, and ready for any meanness to destroy the harmony of Othello. Moreover, Iago is full of intrigues and has a strong desire to ruin everything good around him. Iago is the complete antithesis of Othello. Thus, Iago is one of the Shakespearean favorite types of villains. However, if compared to Richard III or Macbeth, Iago is much lenient with regard to his plans and ideas.

Iago chooses simple but at all times safe tactics - to put off his guard. For this purpose, he uses the mask of a comrade. He treats each of his victims with the words of admiration making a friend out of each enemy. Additionally, he is convenient because of doing favours without demanding anything instead. Trickster Iago wins complete trust of people who are in the state of blindness with widely open eyes. Iago inhabits the world of his victims with the ghosts-chimeras, bringing them out of balance, consoling them, at the same time worsening and deepening the destruction of the personality. The results are terrible. For example, manipulating his passion for Desdemona and weak character, Iago took all the money from Roderigo, morally humiliated the latter forcing him to take poor decisions. As a consequence, making Roderigo absolutely devastated, desperate and tired, Iago uses and kills him afterwards.

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Iagos immorality does not have any limits because of his morally clean communication with people . Hence, he does not even imagine that someone, especially a close friend, can resort to a lie, slanders and treachery. At the same time, each of the heroes periodically tries to comprehend the words and acts of Iago. Thus, Rodrigo suspects him of treason, Othello resists the thought of Desdemonas betrayal inspired by Iago, Aemilia makes an attempt to understand why her husband needs a scarf of her hostess, and Cassio refuses the binge offered by the lieutenant but stops each endeavor to expose Iago in the new guile. Nahvi indicates how Iago cunningly uses all those around him:

Iagos hatred and jealousy towards Othello drive him to deceive many people around him including Othello. As part of his evil plans, Iago cunningly uses both Roderigo and Othellos weakness which is Desdemona to entrap them in his wicked schemes.

The evil of Iago is supported by the arsenal of the invented stories (the story about Cassio who talked to Desdemona in a dream), the stolen objects (Othellos scarf taken from his wife), the use of passions of others (Rodrigos desire to possess Desdemona, Cassios inability to refuse alcohol), the conversations by means of omissions and half-words (for the creation of the feeling of reliability and truthfulness), the physical elimination of people threatening his intrigues (an attempt to kill Cassio by Rodrigos hands, Rodrigos murder, attack and the subsequent homicide of the wife Emilia).

The greatest mistake distorting the entire philosophy of the tragedy includes the interpretation of Iago as the evil originating from his supernatural malevolence. Therefore, the evil of Iago is caused by his hatred, extreme rage and desire to take revenge on everybody. The struggle of Othello and Iago cannot be truly considered as the fight between the good and the evil. It is the confrontation of a big person with a small one, unusual with absolutely usual. Iago is usual, ordinary. His power is not in exclusive rage from his birth. It is in his fury at life. According to Panter, the sadistic behavior of Iago is only an opportunity to make the character brighter and his philosophy more evident. The murders committed by Iago at the end of the tragedy do not directly define his character as well. Thus, it is the characteristic feature of all performances of the Elizabethan epoch. Iago is the most prominent representative of the British society based on greed, pretense and lie.

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In order to comprehend the tragedy, it is necessary to accept unusual Othello and his love to Desdemona, as well as her love to him, while Iago is a usual small person symbolizing the evil, hatred and anger. Iago is a missing loser, an observant, but he is cleverer and more communicative than others. He perfectly hears the course of the heavy mechanism operating the movement of society. Besides, such characters as Othello get stuck in this mechanism, they can sometimes understand and break it, while Iago and people like him are quite satisfied with this mechanism, they only want to force it to work for their benefit. Everything in the world is clear to Iago: the great Moor loses because of his jealousness; the fool Rodrigo pawns his property to tempt somebodys wife. The Senate does not pay any attention to Brabantios cries because Othello is important for the protection of the colonial possession of the Venetian merchants. Iago is presented as an excellent prophet, as everything happens exactly how he guessed. Iago wins, and Othello perishes since the era of Titans finishes. The time of Iago came. The new epoch of the cunning reserved and evil people started.

Summarily, Shakespeare revealed the conflict between the personality and the surrounding public. The love in the tragedy dies facing the world of lie, hatred and evil of Iago. He is a typical representative of the capitalistic society, being cynical and double-hearted. The Iagos evil is not caused by the supernatural malevolence but by his extreme rage for the reasons provided in the given drama. His motto is to live for himself, for his own benefit and well-being. He rejects all good feelings and deeds. Possibly, Shakespeare saw many such people as Iago in his life. They were in the court, among merchants and military. Thus, Shakespeare could foresee the future, which is full of evil.


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