The most interesting and round character in the tragic play Othello, by William Shakespeare, is “honest” Iago. Through carefully though-out words and actions, Iago manipulates others to do things in which he benefits. Iago is the main driving force in “Othello,” pushing several characters towards their tragic end. Iago is not a traditional villain for he plays a unique and complex role. Unlike most villains in tragic plays, evidence of Iago’s deception is not clearly visible. Iago is smart and an excellent judge of people and their characters. He uses this keen sense of knowledge to his advantage.
For example, Iago knows that Roderigo has feelings for Desdemona and assumes he would do anything to have her as his own. Iago attempts to manipulate Roderigo by saying: It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor- put money in thy purse- nor he his to her: It is a violent commencement, and thou shalt see and answerable sequestration; put but money in thy purse. [Act I, Scene III]. By playing on Roderigo’s hopes, Iago swindles money and jewels from Roderigo, making himself a substantial profit. Iago also says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” [Act I, Scene III] once Roderigo has left.
Honest” Iago cleverly disguises his own goals as Roderigo blindly follows him. Iago continually operates with alterier motives in “Othello. ” Iago takes advantage of his friendships with Cassio as well as Roderigo. Cassio blindly follows Iago, thinking the entire time that Iago is trying to help him. During this whole time, Iago plans the demise of Cassio, his supposed friend. In order to obtain Cassio’s position as lieutenant, Iago convinces Cassio to take another drink, knowing very well that it will make him drunk and disgrace him. Iago obviously tries to tarnish Cassio’s haracter when he says, “What, man! Tis a night of revels: the gallants desire it” [Act II, Scene III].
Iago is able to make Cassio defy his own reasoning and reluctantly take another drink. As a result of his devious scheming, Iago’s achieves his goal and Othello terminates Cassio as his lieutenant. Iago successfully manipulates the people around him by building a trust, a trust in which all of Iago’s victims believe to be an honest trust. The friendship and honesty Iago falsely imposes upon Othello makes it easy for Othello to never imagine the possibility that Iago has evil otives.
Othello holds Iago as his close friend and advisor. He believes Iago to be a person, “of exceeding honesty, [who] knows all qualities, with a learned spirit” [Act III, Scene III]. Iago uses the trust Othello has in him to turn Othello into a jealous man. The cleverness of Iago is that he works upon one of the tragic flaws of Othello. Othello has the tendency to take everything he is told at face value without questioning the circumstances. Othello has no reason to doubt these accusations for the “honest” Iago has to be telling him the truth. Iago is successful at urning Othello against his own wife.
Towards the end of Act IV, Iago’s influence can be seen in the conversation between Othello and his wife, Desdemona. Othello sets a trap for his wife when he asks, “Lend me thy handkerchief” [Act IV, Scene III]. Iago creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. Iago’s influence upon Othello causes him to transform from a flawless, military leader to a man driven to murder. In Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Iago carefully and masterfully entraps the other characters satisfying his appetite for revenge.
Through deception, Iago creates the appearance of good, which ultimately fools the people around him into thinking he is loyal and honest. While simultaneously implanting images into the head of Othello, through suggestions to both Cassio and Roderigo, Iago causes the downfall of them all. As an outsider, the audience views Iago’s declarations to one character in which he deceives another character. The basis of Iago’s success comes from the carefully built trust with individual characters. It is a trust from “honest” Iago that his so-called friends do not dare doubt.