Monday, October 15, 2012

Honest Iago...Not!

This is the first time I have read Othello and I must admit that it has grown on me. While I mainly enjoy Shakespeare's comedies I find this play can be interpreted as both a tragedy and comedy. I feel that Iago's schemes create the moments of comedy which will lead to tragedy. Throughout reading I couldn't get over how everyone's action fall into place for his scheme against Cassio and Othello. He has no care in the world who he brings down because he uses everyone in the play. He uses Emilia, Roderigo, and Cassio to get revenge for not getting a promotion.

Iago's actions show he knows the key to his plan is jealousy and the illusion of friendship. He uses friendship on both Cassio and Othello, always acting like he is on both of their sides. It drove me crazy to keep hearing him being called “honest” when he was the most deceitful character. There were times I wondered if his wife Emilia knew he might be the perpetrator of the events between Desdemona and Othello. In 3.3.314, she says to Iago regarding the handkerchief “What handkerchief?/ Why that the Moor first gave to Desdemona/ That which so often you bid me steal.” Didn't Emilia suspect Iago because he wanted her to steal the handkerchief? I wondered later why she even gave it to him and didn't return it to Desdemona, especially knowing the significance of it. Later in Act Four as the relationship between Desdemona and Othello is in shambles it was ironic when Emilia says' “Oh fie upon them! Some such squire he was/ That turned you wit the seamy side without/ And made you to suspect me with the Moor (4.2.150-152). I find her statement ironic because it brings attention to her husband Iago yet she never suspects him of being the mastermind.

Honest Iago's plan strips Othello of all his confidence and leaves him as a shell of jealousy and paranoia. Iago uses Othello race against him. He uses the fact that he is black to put doubt in Othello's mind if he is good enough for Desdemona. He eludes to Othello that being with him is against her “nature.” Iago says to Othello “No to affect many proposed matches/Of her own clime, complexion, and degree./Whereto we see in all things nature tends” (3.3.236-239). He plants within Othello's mind that although she is with him it is more of her nature to be with a man of her own culture and class.

By the end of Act Four, Iago has managed to ruin the reputation of Othello, Cassio and Desdemona. I look forward to finishing the play and hoping he will be exposed for the dishonest person he has been throughout the play. So far I don't think it will end well but we'll see.


Kelsey Maher said...

It is heart wrenching to see Iago succeed so gracefully in destroying the lives of the people who see him as such a trustworthy character. It is ironic that Iago manages to convince so many various characters, such as Othello, Cassio, Roderigo, and even Desdemona into believing that he is a true advocate for their side when in reality, the only person he is truly looking out for is himself. I see Iago as an extremely powerful villain because of how quickly he was able to destroy the calm, confident character of Othello. He reduces the great war hero into a blubbering, uncontrollable mess. I agree with your suspicions of Emilia and believe that she had to have known that her husband was up to no good, especially when she mentions the handkerchief. I think that once again, Iago was able to deceive Emilia into forcing her to do his dirty work for him. She does not question her husband's motives but thinks it better to simply trust his plans because of how great a manipulator he truly is.

Nicole Belladone said...

I also felt very annoyed watching Iago get away with so much, as he continued to get his way and deceive almost every character in the play. At first I found it to be comical and pretty ridiculous how everyone believed what Iago would tell them and how every seemed to trust his judgment, especially Othello. After watching the clip of Othello and Iago in class, I realized how persuading Iago's character really is. As the play moves forward I became more angry with how easy it is for Iago to cause so much tragedy and drama amongst the people who trusted him in the first place. Maybe Emilia already knows how powerful and deceitful Iago is, and just figures that it is better to just do what he would want her to do.

Jess said...

I also found Iago ridiculously horrible (for lack of a better word). He is genuinely evil and shows no sign of remorse or goodnatured-ness at all. Usually, I can find a way to see something good in every character, or something that somewhat rationalizes their cruelty; with Iago, however, I can not. You say that the play is growing on you, yet I find myself having a hard time liking it. Honestly, Iago's incessant manipulation and deceit are getting annoying. It is worthy to note, however, his surprisingly immense power over the other characters. That does, admittedly, make his cruelty interesting.