Essay, Research Paper: Othello By Shakespeare

Shakespeare: Othello

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Shakespeare’s Othello introduces a striking and fascinating character, Iago,
to all of its readers. His evilness and ambition for revenge has the ability to
grasp each reader’s attention and not let go. And Shakespeare wastes no time
in presenting his audience with such an astounding character. As the play opens,
it immediately becomes apparent that Iago is already at work. He is using his
skills to, once again, convince Roderigo that he will persuade Desdemona to fall
in love with him, and in return Iago will aquire a portion of Roderigo’s great
fortune. Nonetheless, it is not only Iago’s evil ways that catch the attention
of the audience; his manipulative cunningness, and his power-complex both play a
major role in the unfolding of his character. Although the antagonistic Iago is
the perpetuator of the evil in Othello, he is no fool. On the contrary, many
scholars, both contemporary and from Shakespeare’s time, consider Iago the
most intelligent character in the play. This intelligence enables him to be very
cunning, allowing him to manipulate nearly every character in the play to his
benefit. He is also very careful in his choice of words. At the beginning of the
play in Act I Scene I, while prodding Roderigo to alert Desdemona’s father of
her disobedience, Iago tells him to “Do, with like timorous accent and dire
yell/ As when, by night and negligence, the fire/ Is spied in populous
cities.” Iago knows that the bigger they play out the scene and the more
hatred they infuse in him, the more likely he will be to cause problems to
Othello. He is also quick to leave the area before Brabantio comes down and
calls him to be a witness against Othello, his boss. Iago is always quick to
flatter or glorify someone before engaging in too deep of a conversation because
he knows that it will soften him or her up and they will be more likely to
listen to him and tell him what he wants to know. For example, in Iago’s first
conversation with Othello, he first says how he had to restrain himself from
killing Roderigo for badmouthing the general, and then promptly asks him whether
or not he married Desdemona. There are numerous other occasions that demonstrate
Iago’s intelligence and cunningness, for example the handkerchief ordeal, but
there are just too many to name here. It becomes evident, as you read through
Othello, that Iago is obsessed with power. His power-complex involves both money
and a fixation on having a position of authority. His money-loving issue is best
shown in his dialogue with Roderigo in Act I Scene II starting at line 327. On
every-other line he tells Roderigo to “Put money in thy purse” and “fill
thy purse with money.” He convinces Roderigo not to kill himself so he can
continue being paid by this wealthy man. The biggest motive Iago has for his
actions in the play is the fact that Othello passed him over for promotion, and
the position was given to someone with little experience. Iago is greatly
outraged by this, so outraged that he conspires to get revenge on both Othello
and Cassio. This proves he has a power complex because he would much rather have
the position of greater power, lieutenant, than the position of ensign, which
was one that held great respect, love, and trust. In other words, he didn’t
get promoted but he still has a great job. In Act I Scene I, Iago discloses to
Roderigo and the readers that “Preferment goes by letter and affection,/ And
not by old gradation, where each second/ Stood heir to the first.” This means
that who is chosen to be promoted is not chosen by experience and a step-ladder
seniority system, but rather he is chosen through personal influence and
favoritism. In “Pattern in Othello”, Ralph Berry writes “..... there are
hints that Iago comes from a lower social stratum than Cassio, and in the
drinking scene Cassio’s references to ‘man of quality’ and ‘the
lieutenant is to be saved before the ancient’ suggest an element of class
antagonism”. Cassio was probably well known and liked throughout the land (he
was, after all, one of Brabantio’s choices for Desdemona) and no doubt
received the promotion through knowing people. This vexes Iago even more, and
could account for his lust for money as a means of gaining a higher social
status. Iago is an intelligent man and an experienced warrior who could achieve
much good if he used his skills positively to create rather than destroy. He
allowed his power-complex to invade his mind and consequently used his
intelligence and smooth-talk to bring doom to those he was supposed to love, and
ultimately to himself also.
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