I am not what I am. What is Iago? — as distinct from what he pretends to be — and what are his motives?In Shakespeare’s, Othello, the reader is presented the classic battle between the deceitful forces of evil and the innocence of good. It are these forces of evil that ultimately lead to the breakdown of Othello, a noble venetian moor, well-known by the people of Venice as a honourable soldier and a worthy leader. Othello’s breakdown results in the muder of his wife Desdemona.
Desdemona is representative of the good in nature. Good can be defined as forgiving, honest, innocent and unsuspecting. The evil contained within Othello is by no means magical or mythical yet is represented by the character Iago. Iago is cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting. He uses these traits to his advantage by slowly planning his own triumph while watching the demise of others. It is this that is Iago’s motivation. The ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil.
Not only is it in his own nature of evil that he suceeds but also in the weaknesses of the other characters. Iago uses the weaknesses of Othello, specifically jealousy and his devotion to things as they seem, to conquer his opposite in Desdemona. From the start of the play, Iago’s scheming ability is shown when he convinces Roderigo to tell about Othello and Desdemonda’s elopement to Desdemona’s father, Brabantio. Confidentally Iago continues his plot successfully, making fools of others, and himself being rewarded. Except Roderigo, no one is aware of Iago’s plans. This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man loyal to his superiors. The fact that Othello himself views Iago as trustworthy and honest gives the evil within Iago a perfect unsuspecting victim for his schemes.
The opportunity to get to Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse. He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is this jealousy and the ignorance of Othello that lead to the downfall of Desdemona; the one truely good natured character in the play. As the play opens we are immediately introduced to the hostility of Iago against Othello. Iago has been appointed the position of servant to Othello instead of the more prestigous position of lieutenant. Michael Cassio has been appointed this position.
Iago feels betrayed because he considers him self more qualified than Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Iago then foreshadows his plans for Othello to Roderigo, O, sir, content you. / I follow him to serve my turn upon him (Act I, Scene I).
Iago already realizes that Othello thinks about him as an honest man. Roderigo is used by Iago as an apprentence and someone to do his dirty work. Roderigo is naively unsuspecting. As the play shifts from Venice to Cyprus there is an interesting contrast. Venice, a respectful and honourable town is overshadowed by the war torn villages of Cyprus. It could be said that Venice represents good or specfically Desdemona and that Cyprus represents evil in Iago. Desdemona has been taken from her peacefullness and brought onto the grounds of evil. Iago commits his largest acts of deceit in Cyprus, fittingly considering the atmosphere.
Ironically, the venetians feel the Turks are their only enemy while in fact Iago is in hindsight the one man who destroys their stable state. Act II Scene III shows Iago’s willing ability to manipulate characters in the play. Iago convinces Montano to inform Othello of Cassio’s weakness for alchohol hoping this would rouse disatisfaction by Othello. Iago when forced to tell the truth against another character does so very suspiciously.
He pretends not to offend Cassio when telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved in, but Iago secretly wants the worst to become of Cassio’s situation without seeming responsible. Cassio is relieved of his duty as lieutenant. With Cassio no longer in the position of lieutenant, this gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively interact with and manipulate Othello. By controlling Othello, Iago would essentially control Desdemona.To reach Desdemona directly is unforseeable for Iago considering that Othello is superior to him.
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