Othello: Iago – Manipulative, Racist, Arrogant, Presumptuous
William Shakespeare’s Othello play depicts Iago as a manipulative, racist, arrogant, and presumptuous character. Concerning the trait of manipulation, Iago causes Brabantio to believe that Othello has forcefully married Desdemona. Regarding the trait of racism, Iago refers to Othello as a black animal. Pertaining to the trait of arrogance, Iago declares that Michael Cassio cannot deliver in battle. Concerning the trait of presumptuousness, Iago believes he deserves the position of Othello’s immediate assistant. This essay analyses Othello to illustrate that Iago is a manipulative, racist, arrogant, and presumptuous character.
To illustrate that he is manipulative, Iago speaks in a manner that causes Brabantio to believe that Othello has forcefully married Desdemona. In this regard, Iago loudly advises Brabantio to be on the lookout for thieves and for Desdemona (Shakespeare 79-80). Iago then declares that Desdemona, Brabantio’s daughter, has been stolen (Ibid. 87) by Othello. Based on Iago’s inciting utterances, Brabantio believes that Othello has forcefully married Desdemona. From this analysis, it is clear that Iago is manipulative; he causes Brabantio to adopt the view that Othello has forcefully married Desdemona.
Iago is also racist; based on Othello’s black skin color, Iago refers to Othello as a black animal. To this end, Iago refers to Othello as a black ram (Ibid. 88). This terminology implies that Othello is less than a human being owing to his black skin color. Consequently, Iago is racist because he considers Othello to be inferior on account of skin color. While reflecting on this matter, a reader would validly conclude that Iago considers himself superior to Othello. Given that Iago’s view is informed by Othello’s black skin color, a reader would realize that Iago is racist.
Further, Iago is arrogant; without providing valid justification, he holds that Cassio is not fit for war. In this regard, Iago argues that, since Cassio has studied mathematics, he cannot perform well in battle (Ibid. 23). Curiously, Iago does not provide specific reasons to prove that Cassio is an incompetent soldier. Given this state of affairs, a reader can validly conclude that Iago considers himself better than Cassio in terms of fighting ability. Considering that Iago has no proof to support his view, he is arrogant.
Moreover, Iago is presumptuous; he holds that he should hold the position of Othello’s second in command (Ibid. 33-34). This view illustrates that Iago is of the view that he possesses certain leadership qualities that he actually does not have. Iago does not possess these leadership qualities because he was overlooked when Othello was selecting the individual to hold the position of second in command. If he possessed these leadership qualities, Iago would be appointed to this position. From this discussion it is clear that Iago exhibits the trait of presumptuousness; he thinks too highly of himself.
In conclusion, Shakespeare’s Othello highlights the following traits of Iago: manipulative, racism, arrogance, and presumptuousness. Given that Iago is male character, it would be rewarding to find out why Shakespeare chose to depict Iago as a character with negative traits. This line of questioning would cause an investigator to analyze Othello using biographical or historical criticism lenses. Biographical criticism would entail investigating whether Shakespeare went through specific experiences that motivated him to depict Iago as a character with negative traits. Historical criticism would involve investigating whether specific historical figures exhibited the behavior that Iago depicts in Othello.