English Literature: Iago: The Evil in Othello

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Of all the characters presented in Shakespeare’s literature the most sinister one is without a doubt Iago. He is a ruthless sociopath. No other character can even come close to his evil. Most of the antagonists present in Shakespeare’s plays have valid reasons for the troubles the cause. Iago doesn’t for the most part he just has a burning hatred for the world especially Othello.

Iago is the whole reason there is any conflict in Othello . If he never had entered the play Othello would have married Desdimonia and they would have lived happily ever after. Right from the beginning of the play to the very end he causes conflicts. He is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of: Othello Desdimona, Emilia, Cassio, and Roderigo. Which happen to be all of the main characters. I believe Shakespeare didn’t just want Iago’s character to be evil. I think he wanted him more to symbolize it. All of the problems he causes are through lies, treachery, manipulation, and a deep unknown hate. Some of his hate is fueled by jealousy and revenge. The ironic part is that he wants to be known as “honest Iago”. Every act contains an evil plot set up by Iago. They all play into his “grand scheme”. In the very beginning of act 1 Iago displays his hatred for Othello. He is angry at him for making Cassio the lieutenant. Jealousy is his first motif. He than tells Roderigo (a former suitor of Desdimonia) that Othello and Desdimonia are getting married. The two of them then go and tell Desdimonia’s father, Brabantio that Othello and his daughter just got eloped. This infuriates Brabantio.

Soon after Brabantio gets a gang after Othello. Iago’s treachery is first displayed hear. When Othello is confronted Iago is on his side. Iago was the person who insighted the whole ordeal.

Act 1-3 is where Iago pieces together his whole sinister plot to get revenge. He first tells Roderigo to sell his lands and move to Cypress to court Desdimonia. The last stanza is where he manifests his “grand scheme”. His idea is to get Othello into thinking Cassio is in love with Desdimonia. That way Cassio will be dismissed from lieutenant and Othello will lose Desdimonia.

Shakespeare does a very good job in showing what kind of person Iago is right from the beginning of the play. The reader begins to realize this before any of the characters in the play do. I believe he did this so the reader will begin to see how evil Iago is yet how unjustified his reasoning is.

As soon as everyone arrives in Cypress Iago puts his plan in effect. He gets Roderigo (his supposed “friend”) to believe that Cassio and Desdimonia are in love. This is a very significant part in showing Iago’s evil. He gets Roderigo who has wronged absolutely no one to develop a hatred for Cassio who just happens to be a victim of circumstance.

Iago’s sinister plan works too. He gets Cassio drunk than has Roderigo provoke a fight. Soon after Cassio stabs a man named Montano. Othello comes out and dismisses Cassio from lieutenancy.

Half of Iago’s “grand scheme” has succeeded. However he still wants to be Lieutenant. He convinces Cassio to arrange a meeting to talk with Desdimonia About re-instating him as Lieutenant. Little does Cassio know why Iago really wants him to meet with Desdimonia. At the end of this act Cassio says: “I never knew a Florentine more kind and honest.” Shakespeare wrote that line to show how innocent Cassio was and how evil Iago was.

Othello sees Cassio talk with Desdimonia and Iago comments on how that is suspicious. He than tells Othello not to feel jealous (which is the exact opposite of what he really wants him to feel). Desdimonia also drops a special kerchief given to her by Othello. Othello then confronts Iago because he believes that Iago knows more about Cassio and Desdimonia’s relationship. He threatens Iago with is life. Quickly Iago comes up with a story about how he heard Cassio talk in his sleep and wipe his beard with the special kerchief. Othello then vows to kill Desdimonia. Iago vows to kill Cassio, he is than appointed Lieutenant.

Shakespeare definitely planned this part to effect the audience the most. Without any reason Iago has just caused the demise of 3 people. There is know valid reason why any human would do this. That is why I don’t believe Iago is meant to be an evil character, instead he symbolizes all evil.

To further show Iago’s evilness he gets Roderigo to attempt to kill Cassio. This is where Iago’s plan begins to fade. Desdimonia gets murdered by Othello, however Cassio never dies. Othello than confronts Iago, finds out what really happened and does himself in.

There is a great deal irony in this play. There is also a great contrast between the character. All the victims are innocent. The cause of all their deaths was by the evil in the play. Iago is the only evil in the play. His characterization is so unlike any one else’s.

Othello, Desdimona, Cassio, Roderigo, and Emilia are all innocent victims. No of them wronged anyone else. There was only one conflict in the whole play Iago. This play has a bizarre plot map as opposed to the standard plot map: problem, rising conflict, climax, resolution. The problem and conflict are represented by a single person. The climax could be several things, I believe it is when Othello plots to kill Desdimonia. There is no true resolution Iago does get caught but the problems he causes (death) cannot be resolved. He was just meant to embody evil, which can’t be resolved.

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