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Friday, 30 May 2014 15:36

Shakespeare's Othello Featured

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Shakespeare's Othello

Dramatic irony presented by Iago in Othello

Theater arts gain its dramatic aspect from the power of persuading an audience of the reality of a play through the use of primary speech given about a given circumstance. Shakespeare is well known for his ability to use speech in conveying a hidden means and gain advantage in passing the message of his world. He is a playwright who well understood the power of words. In his play Othello, Shakespeare uses the character Iago in passing his manipulative and mastery use of speech as a force that is greatly influential and propels the play forward. This essay presents how words spoken by Iago play a diverse and divisive role in the play. This is because of the inner deep hatred and homoerotic attraction that Iago has towards Othello.

 Dramatic irony through Iago’s speech

Iago plays a significant role in the play Othello by Shakespeare. He acts as an instrument towards the downfall of Othello. His speech has more than one meaning, thus playing a central role that drives the play’s actions. His motives are not clear, and one cannot easily categorize them. He faces a mixture of vice-like interests and sensibilities in light of his view of the suffering of people.Iago has a deep desire to revenge, and this can be seen from the opening scene of the play. Iago, unlike Cassio, is a common soldier and battle tested while Cassio is presented by Shakespeare as being a gentleman with less experience. Iago is described an s a person who “……of his eyes had seen the prove at Cyprus and Rhodes and on other grounds heathen and Christened.” (1.1.27-29).

The resentment that Iago has been shown in the first scene, and he fears that Othello made love to his wife Emilia. “I do not suspect the lusty Moor hath lept into my seat, the thought whereof, act likes a poisonous substance that gnaws one inside (2.1.282-84). This shows the deep hatred that Iago has towards Othello and the ways he says this is one ranging from mocking to loathing. He is accusing Othello of having slept with his wife, and he repeats this accusation later in the play. This accusation has no proof, but Iago is driven, by the rage, to revenge. Through his speeches, we learn that Iago is a person who holds grudges for a long time. He is help up by time and takes a long time to plan for revenge.

Suspicion and revenge are not the only motivators for Iago. He enjoys the game of running Othello’s life. Iago takes the version of an evil character that is close with other characters and has a comic capability of piloting the final downfall of his antagonist, Othello. This can be evidenced, in Iago’s skill, in a speech that enables him to persuade other characters. He convinces Othello that his wife is cheating and is unfaithful to him even without any proof to show this claim. Iago is so persuasive to a point that Othello believes this to be true and is held up in a trance of jealousy. Seeing this, Iago congratulates his ability by saying, “my medicine work, and work on, work!

This is how the credulous fools are caught, and many chaste and worthy dames even thus, guiltless meet approach” (IV. i. 54-57).We also see Iago convincing Cassio to drink for being appointed as a lieutenant. He also convinces Roderigo to attempt the murder of Cassio and finally convincing Othello to kill his wife because of her unfaithfulness. This way it becomes clear that Iago is in a mission of seeking revenge. However, his hidden motives are unexplainable when looking the surface meaning of the play. His main reason for hating Othello is not due to Othello’s choosing Cassio as the lieutenant, but because Othello does not listen to him and the advocates sent by Iago.

For Othello, he does not see the importance of Iago, and he does not recognize is worthiness and importance. This is the main reason as to why Iago get offended. However, this is not to rule out the fact of being overlooked for a job that he has had many years of experience as a soldier. “I have often informed thee and always tell you again and again... sI hate that Moor. My cause towards him is heartened to be of no reason, so, lets us revenge against Othello” (I.iii.373). Based on this hatred Iago accompanies Othello to Cyprus and his intention is to destroy the life and reputation of Othello Desdemona and Cassio.

Shakespeare mainly depends on dramatic irony in the play by constantly refereeing to Iago as the “honest Iago”. This emphasizes on Othello’s’ vulnerability and other characters like Cassio and Desdemona for respecting and trusting Iago. In various occasions, Iago refers to himself as a devil. He says, “ you are among those people who will not serve God if you are bound by the devil” and “ when devils have put on the blackest sin they will display themselves with heavenly actions, just the way as I do” (2.3.325-27). The way Iago chooses his words in defining himself as a devil illustrates his hidden evil intentions that other characters are not aware.

He acts as a good person, but his jealousy and resentment is clear through his words. Iago is part of this psychological drama in the way he projects himself towards Othello. He uses speech as a clever technique to active power over the minds of others.The villain motivation is not simply displayed by Iago. His actions also hint to his inner homosexual character in the way he describes Cassio’s dream. He says, “Then he laid his leg on my thigh, and sighed and kissed (3.3.435-26). Also, the scene where Iago convinces Othello that that his wife is not true to him, this signifies seduction. We question why Iago has to give all these revelation to Othello if he is not in love with him


Shakespeare uses the Character Iago to represent a person wrapped in his own feelings and thoughts. Though the aspect of psychology has improved today, people in the 1600s suffering from severe psychological conditions ware not treated and restricted to roam in the society. Iago is not a person suffering from a psychological disorder, but his imagination drives him crazy and guides him in his misguided mentality. Iago displays hatred towards Othello and calls him a Moore because of his dark skin color. This play shows aspects such as social inequality, family and workplace dynamics and gender inequality. The plays presents the discrimination that existed in Shakespeare’s time resulting from color, and gender needs that existed in early years of education.


Shakespeare, W (1996) Othello In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University Http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/othello_all.html

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Prof. Morgan Clinton

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