Othello and Iago

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‘A consummate actor who can exert his power over the most intelligent, as well as the most gullible’
In light of this comment, examine Shakespeare’s presentation of Iago

When we examine the character of Iago- lauded as Shakespeare’s most foul villain, we must understand that he is indeed a crafty foe, influencing almost every character within the play, orchestrating the tragedy which culminated in Othello’s downfall. Within this essay, we shall examine exactly how he wields such power over characters, both intelligent and gullible, skillfully and why he succeeds.

The notion of a consummate actor presupposes one that is utterly devoted to his art, almost living his act. In the case of Iago, it is almost certain that the only group to which he is truly and completely honest to, is the audience. To others, he is a talented actor, as they are completely fooled by his façade of honesty. He appears humble to Desdemona, when he implies that he is not intelligent ‘but indeed my invention comes from my pate as birdlime does from frieze’. To Othello, he appears truthful, hiding his malicious intent. He appears to offer kindly advice, deceiving Othello utterly. This is evident from Othello's periodical exclamation of trust-‘kind and honest Iago’. Iago truly lives his act, never once revealing his malicious intent to any of the characters, even his wife was kept in the dark till the very end- ‘disprove this villain, if thou be’st a man’ However, his act is revealed to us, the audience, via his soliloquies, where he gleefully explains his machinations ‘entrap a fly as great as Cassio’, and to revel in the success of his plots ‘work, my magic, work’.

The true reason of why he acts, or the fundamental motive for him putting up this false front has never been consistent. Iago himself initially claims that this is done in revenge for being passed up for promotion, where
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