In Othello, the character of Iago is alienated from society by his personal values. He is used by Shakespeare to demonstrate societies assumptions and moral values on a whole. Iago is the main antagonist to Othello in this story, and he succeeds in his plan to ruin Othello by forcing him to believe that Desdemona is cheating on him. Because Iago succeeds, because he was able to carry off the plan, we are able to see exactly the assumptions on society that Shakespeare laid out to demonstrate.
These assumptions and morals fall under three main categories: that people largely use each other, that we should do whatever needs to be done to go for our goals, and that the words of a man and more believable than those of a woman, even when it is a wife. Shakespeare uses Iago to demonstrate all three of these quite well. The very basis of the character Iago is used to demonstrate that a value within society is that it is okay for people to use each other. Iago is made to be constantly using other people, using his so-called friends.
He acts as a friend to Othello, gaining his trust, simply so that he will be able to backstab him later. He never intends to be a real friend, and in fact is plotting the entire time. Iago also uses Roderigo, someone that we originally view as his friend. He uses Roderigo for money only, promises him things, but simply takes his money. Iago also uses his wife, Emilia to contribute to his plot. Iago has no real comrades; no person that he meets is not used by him for evilness. Yet, Shakespeare does not have us see Iago’s actions as uncommon.
We accept that he is using Roderigo and Emilia, we accept that he will attempt to gain Othello’s trust simply to backstab him. We are made to believe that this is okay, and even to be expected. This demonstrates societies moral value, that it is okay to use people like this, that it is okay for Iago to act as he has. The second thing that Shakespeare demonstrates to us is societies value that it is all right to go so far as to commit murder to gain personal advantage. That it is justifiable to commit horrible sins simply for personal advancement.
Iago is used to demonstrate this through his own justification for his plan. Iago simply wants to be Othello’s lieutenant, yet when Cassio was named, Iago decided to act. He formulates an entire plan, simply so that he can be one position higher in society. He sees nothing wrong with tricking Othello, almost sees it as Othello’s fault, for the “Moor is of a free and open nature, that thinks men honest but seem to be so. ” He also wishes to act on Othello because, without any proof, he believes that Othello is sleeping with his wife, that Othello has “done my office.
Iago does not care if it is true or not, but rather uses it as an excuse to overthrow Othello. Again, by the end of the play, we are not entirely unsympathetic to Iago, and rather seem to like his character. We appreciate his use of language and trickery. Shakespeare has made us blind to the horrible acts he has committed, and rather we focus on the intelligence within the plan. We almost feel that it is okay for Iago to have done this. Shakespeare has demonstrated that within the society, it is okay for one man to severely disrupt the lives of others, simply for personal advancement.
The third thing demonstrated through Iago by Shakespeare is an assumption, that the woman is always wrong, unquestionably, and that the man is always right. Iago plays on this assumption constantly. He knows that the Moor with believe him over Desdemona anyday, and thus his entire plan centers around the fact that Desdemona will be unable to prove that she has been set up, and that Othello will believe that she has had an affair with Cassio. Even Iago himself believes that his wife had an affair with Othello.
He never bothered to ask him, simply assumed that the words of other men were true. Shakespeare has pointed out through this play just how dumb this assumption was, that a man would believe any other man over the word of his wife, someone he loves. Iago knows that if Othello does believe him, it will be virtually impossible for Desdemona to prove otherwise. Based on the views of society that Shakespeare has presented us, it is easy to agree with Iago’s view of society.
He is presented as the evil person, yet by the end of the play, we enjoy his character, enjoy his intelligence and what he has brought to the overall play. We see that though he has taken advantage of many people, lied, cheated and essentially caused people to die, well, we still enjoy him. Iago is essentially the main character of the play. Othello is the hero, but the play centers around Iago, everything that occurs, happens because of Iago. Because of the way that Iago is the central character, the way that Shakespeare has written this, we sympathize with Iago.
Shakespeare has used the character of Iago to demonstrate three of societeies assumptions and values: the value that people can use each other, the value that people should take advantage of each other for personal betterment, and the assumption that the woman is always wrong, and not to be trusted. Shakespeare has used Iago as the central character, the character that the entire plot line rests on, and thus we are almost forced to see his point of view, and thus sympathize with him at the end of the play.