Act I[ edit ] King Lear of Britain, elderly and wanting to retire from the duties of the monarchy, decides to divide his realm among his three daughters, and declares he will offer the largest share to the one who loves him most.
Each thing Iago says is cause for worry. He claims a reputation for honesty and plain speaking, yet he invents elaborate lies in order to exploit and manipulate other people. He treats others as fools and has no time for tender emotion, yet he is a married man and presumably once loved his wife.
He cares for no one, yet he devotes his whole life to revenge rather than walk away in disdain. He believes in cheating and lying for gain, yet Shakespeare placed some of the most beautiful words in Iago's mouth.
Iago has a reputation for honesty, for reliability and direct speaking.
Othello and others in the play constantly refer to him as "honest Iago. In Iago, Shakespeare shows us a character who acts against his reputation. Possibly Iago was always a villain and confidence trickster who set up a false reputation for honesty, but how can one set up a reputation for honesty except by being consistently honest over a long period of time?
Alternatively he might be a man who used to be honest in the past, but has decided to abandon this virtue.
Shakespeare has built the character of Iago from an idea already existing in the theatrical culture of his time: In Exodus, God gives his laws to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and Moses asks God his name. Iago is the opposite of God, that is, he is the Devil. Iago in this play, has the qualities of the Devil in medieval and Renaissance morality plays: He is a liar, he makes promises he has no intention of keeping, he tells fancy stories in order to trap people and lead them to their destruction, and he sees other's greatest vulnerabilities and uses these to destroy them.
Iago does all this not for any good reason, but for love of evil. Iago is surrounded with bitter irony: He likes to have others unwittingly working to serve his purposes.
But for all this, as his plot against Othello starts moving and gathering momentum, he loses control of it and must take real risks to prevent it from crashing. Iago is a man with an obsession for control and power over others who has let this obsession take over his whole life.
Necessity forces his hand, and, in order to destroy Othello, he must also destroy Roderigo, Emilia, Desdemona, and ultimately himself. The one man who survived Iago's attempt to kill him, Cassio, is the only major character left standing at the end of the play.
He is quite or nearly indifferent to his own fate as to that of others; he runs all risks for a trifling and doubtful advantage, and is himself the dupe and victim of ruling passion — an insatiable craving after action of the most difficult and dangerous kind.In this early speech, Iago explains his tactics to Roderigo.
He follows Othello not out of “love” or “duty,” but because he feels he can exploit and dupe his master, thereby revenging himself upon the man he suspects of having slept with his wife.
Othello’s misplacement of trust, and blindness to Iago’s true motivations, increases the tension further, as the audience wonders when, if .
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Guide to Theory of Drama.
Manfred Jahn. Full reference: Jahn, Manfred. A Guide to the Theory of Drama. Part II of Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. English Department, University of Cologne. Shakespeare presents Iago as a collection of unsolvable puzzles.
Each thing Iago says is cause for worry. He claims a reputation for honesty and plain speaking, yet he invents elaborate lies in order to exploit and manipulate other people. Honesty Is the Best Policy (Hear That, Iago?) You've probably noticed how the word "honest" shows up all over the place in Othello.
By poet and literary critic William Empson's count, there are fifty-two uses of "honest" and "honesty" throughout the play.