Monday, October 15, 2012

Iago: Great Villain

Sam Montagna
Professor Mulready
Shakespeare I
15 October 2012
Great Villain

              I would consider Iago one of the greatest Shakespearean villains. He is an evil genius. He's like today's Joker from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Just like the Joker is able to turn Good Guy Harvey Dent into a villain, Iago turns Good Guy Othello into a bad guy. All the Joker or Iago had to do is take away the person Dent and Othello loved and let the grief, anger and sadness come out and wreck havoc. Iago takes all the information he is given and executes his plan perfectly. He has gained everyone's trust and is even called “Honest Iago.” He even knows that his status will be beneficial. “He holds me well:/ the better shall my purpose work on him” (Shakespeare 2134.372-373). It is easy for him to act so two-faced. No one would, and no one does suspect his role in Othello's change. He plays both sides. On Othello's side, he tells Othello “Strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated” (2170.197-198). He adds fuel to the fire on Othello's end but then comforts Desdemona on her end. Iago tells her “I pray you, be content. 'Tis but his humour./ The business of the state does him offence,/ and he does chide with you (2176.169-171).
               The characters in the play are so oblivious to his intentions. Emilia suspects someone is behind it. “I will be hanged if some eternal villain,/ some busy and insinuating rogue,/ some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office/ have not devised this slander” (2175.134-137). This description sounds like the real Iago and Iago recognizes it, and yet, no one actually accuses him. The audience, however, knows everything that is going on. The audience knows Iago's motivation and that Iago's only action is to provide suggestion and let Othello's insecurities do the rest. This is why Shakespeare's use of soliloquy is extremely important in this play. Without it, the audience would be clueless to his plan and Othello would really be a story of a husband that was cheated on. The soliloquy acts as a guide, it keep the audience up to date with Iago's plans and intentions. Iago's soliloquies are also important because he cannot reveal himself to anyone in the play. If he did, then someone could potentially destroy his plan—he cannot afford to trust anyone but himself. After reading Act IV, Iago is still adding fuel and evidence to the fire. It's like watching a train wreck. You want to but you can't look away. Like it was discussed in class, I keep waiting for someone to come in and save the day, but no one is there. There is no Batman in this story. Iago's distrust of anyone prevents any rescuing. Iago's purpose for the soliloquies cement Othello and Desdemona's fate. Their marriage is over before it even began. Iago's success in executing his plan makes Othello the tragedy that it is.


Vanessa Pavelock said...

I find it very interesting how you explore Iago as a villain with complete control over Othello’s character-- similar to the Joker. While Othello is turned into a “bad guy” through Iago’s deception, it is ultimately Othello’s own tragic flaws which bring about his end. Iago is considered a great villain for his ability to manipulate the characters of the play, and evoke havoc amongst them. Although I believe Iago is meticulous in plotting his revenge, I do think a large amount of the tragedy comes from Othello’s irrational, spontaneous response to the information he hears. He does not take a careful approach in revealing the truth of the scenario. Instead, he lets his jealousy get the better of him, and acts rashly. While I agree that Iago is a great villain, I must say Othello makes the execution rather easy for him. Othello is a character who is full of tragic flaws-- just waiting to come out.

Jillian Landau said...

I like the parallel you make here between Iago and the Joker. In Othello, Iago is cunning and duplicitous, traits unrivaled by any other character. Like the Joker, many of Iago’s plans are carefully constructed, but are dependent on the weaknesses of his opponents. His success is mutually exclusive with the internal destruction of Othello. Both villains operate with the same mindset: use your opponents as pawns in their own undoing. However, for the Joker, like you mentioned, Batman saves the day. In our tragedy, no one is there to save Othello from making a mistake. Iago proves to be too powerful of a villain to be overthrown—that is until it is entirely too late.