Iago is one of the most interesting and deeply developed characters in the tragedy “Othello” by William Shakespeare. Using carefully thought-out actions and words, Iago manipulates others to do things in a way that helps him and gets him to reach his aspirations. He is the driving force in this play, pushing Othello and every other character towards the tragic ending.
It’s first apparent that Iago is just your normal run of the mill villain but he is far more than that. Shakespeare has decided to make Iago amoral which adds a new depth to character and makes his actions even more villainous then they already were. Iago is a very smart character and this only aids him in his villainous ploy. Iago now starts revealing his plot to take down Othello. Being the intelligent character he is, Iago plays on Roderigo’s feelings for Desdemona and steals money from him.
“Thus do I ever make my fool my purse. For I mine own gained knowledge should profane if I would time expend with such a snipe but for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office. I know not if ‘t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety. He holds me wellâ€¦”
Iago sees it as wasted time and knowledge if he didn’t play on Roderigo and get money from him or even use him against Othello. Iago simply sees Roderigo as just being desposable and easy to toy with; just a stepping stone down his path of greed. In this quote he also explains explains one of the major reasons why he wants the ultimate fall of Othello and how he will manipulate Othello into believing that Cassio has had an affair with Desdemona.
Along with being intelligent Iago is also a quick thinker and is able to tackle just about any situation that you may throw at him. We first see this when Roderigo is livid once he finds out Iago’s scheme but Iago is able to make it seem a better and calm Roderigo down. He took Roderigo’s anger and twisted it into a way to better along his plan. If Roderigo is blinded by anger then it won’t be hard for Iago to make him believe anything.
Iago’s long term goal is to make Othello look bad and what better way to do that then to make him think his wife is cheating on him?
“He takes her by the palm. Ay, well said, whisper! With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon her, do, I will gyve thee in thine own courtship. You say true, ’tis so, indeed. If such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantryâ€¦”
By simply twisting around normal friendly actions he can make anything seem worse and that is just what he does with Cassio and Desdemona’s relationship. Cassio and Desdemona are nothing more then simple friends but when Iago sees them interacting in a little more then a friendly way he thinks of a plan to make Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio.
None of this would be possible if Iago didn’t talk in such natural and vindictive speech. Iago talks in a lot of prose instead verse and that makes him a little easier to understand and get his point across. He also interacts as if he is genuinely trying to help Othello but in all reality he is only helping himself and praying that everyone else will fail. These interactions with other characters have led him to be known as “Honest Iago” even though he has already planted the seed of tragedy in Othello’s mind. Iago is a master of abusing people’s trust to gain more power and further the completion of his goals, and he does this with Othello. He keeps the characters trusting him and believing that he is there for them and helping them until it all comes back on him.
Iago is able to keep Cassio’s trust for as long as he needs it just by doing little favors like this; guaranteeing time with Desdemona.
“I’ll send her to you presently, and I’ll devise a mean to draw the Moor out of the way, that your converse and business may be more free.”
In order to keep their trust he must keep doing things throughout the play for them but keep his ending goal. What appears as a friendly gesture turns into a way to bring Cassio, Desdemona, and Othello down from their high graces. Iago sets up the situation then turns around and uses Cassio’s good looks, and flirtatious manner with women to play on what he already installed in Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s fidelity.
In the end of the play he completely betrays Cassio and tells Roderigo to kill him. Neither of them are useful anymore to Iago so he sees no reason to keep them around any longer.
“I have rubbed this young quat almost to the sense, and he grows angry. Now, whether he kill Cassio or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, every way makes my gain. Live Roderigo, he calls me to a restitution large of gold and jewels that I bobbed from him as gifts to Desdemona. It must not be. If Cassio do remain he hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me uglyâ€¦”
Roderigo was nothing more then a vehicle in Iago’s plot and now that he is done with Roderigo there is no need to keep him around and Cassio is the likely man to kill him. Iago has already made Cassio look bad in Othello’s eyes and that’s all he wanted to do but to Iago he doesn’t care whether Roderigo kills Cassio or Cassio kills Roderigo because either way it is good for him. In the end of it Iago has to do it himself all while keeping up his “perfect” image.
While Iago and Bianca are helping Cassio, Iago sends off Emilia to tell Othello but in turn Emilia reveals to Othello all about how evil and vindictive Iago is. Iago kills Emilia because she is nothing more than a nuisance and is the only person that can stop him from getting what he wants, but in the end it was Iago who really stopped himself. Iago’s selfishness, scheming, lying and petty revenge are what lead to the death of everything Iago once knew; even himself.