How Iago is portrayed in Othello
The audience becomes complicit in Iago’s intention and, like it or not, is soon involved in his vengeful potting. He actually asks them what he should do… Many actors who have played the part have been capable of getting members of the audience to share Iago’s delight in his own powers of evil intention. The inevitable question the audience are to ask themselves when reading or watching this play is weather they see Iago as remarkably clever or Othello as a fool.
I personally believe that it would be near to impossible for Othello to disbelieve in Iago, as the way he distorts perception ( which is one of the main themes in the play), and his dangerously persuasive and deceptive personality come together to create the tragic catastrophe at the climax of the play. The character of Iago makes the not only the other characters, but also the audience see what he wants them to see. Shakespeare’s use of Iago’s soliloquies enables the audience to see Iago’s true intentions, which is something the characters are unaware of.
As these soliloquies involve only Iago and the audience, they are bound to feel similar to his ally. Shakespeare also uses the other characters opinion of Iago, language, imagery and themes to show the audience just how clever yet manipulative the character is. However, Shakespeare also makes the audience aware of Iago’s misogynistic, nasty and damaging personality, which makes them hate him, yet admire his ingenuity. In his soliloquies, Iago directs questions personally to the audience.
For example, on page41, Iago says ‘which thing to do if this poor trash of Venice… By asking the audience their opinion of what he should do to Othello, effectively they will feel their opinion is valued, therefore making them feel an ally. He also says ‘How how, lets see… ‘ By the end of this speech Iago has an answer to his own questions, making the audience see his ingenious mind and also again feel part of the plot. Iago asks ‘To counsel Cassio to this parallel course, directly to his good? ‘ The plot involves not only Othello but all of the characters in the play other than Iago, revealing his selfish, ruthless motives.
Another soliloquy, in which Iago makes a mockery of Roderigo, is on page 29. He says ‘thus do I ever make my fool my purse’. Here, he admits to the audience that he is using Roderigo purely for his own advantage to make money from him. This presents immediately Iago’s ruthless, uncaring soul. Despite his true motives, throughout the play Iago is referred to by the other characters as ‘honest Iago’. This is ironic and makes a mockery of the other characters as they truly believe Iago’s intentions are good until it is too late.
The ingenious way this character is able to manipulate situations in order to deceive others and make them see and believe what he wants too is well presented by Shakespeare when both Cassio and Othello are present and he wishes to make it look to Othello as if he is talking about Desdemona, but make Cassio assume he is talking about Bianca. Cassio says ‘I think I’faith she loves me’… to which Othello replies, but not directly to Cassio, ‘Now he importunes him to tell it o’er’.
From these lines it is evident that Iago’s plots of deception on the both of them have been successful, as they both believe Iago is honest. The audience would see here just how Iago is able to control situations to his advantage, which would make them hate but admire him at the same time. Iago refers to honest people as ‘honest fool’. This opinion of honesty reflects his inability to trust, as he knows himself how it is easy lie and deceive. Although, in some respects the audience are bound to be in awe of Iago due to his utter ruthlessness and intelligence, in others they are forced to hate him.
The misogynistic manner in which he speaks to Emilia, his wife, would anger the audience, particularly the female members. For example, when Emilia is about to give Iago the handkerchief, he calls her ‘foolish wife’ and ‘good wench’. Both these terms are very derogatory, showing the audience his appalling attitude towards women, thus provoking dislike from them. The understanding of the general plot is vital to the audience in this play, as the knowledge of the plot would enable them to realise just how cunning, malicious and unnecessary the end catastrophe is.
Iago purposely brings Othello down, also causing Desdemona’s, Roderigo’s and his own wives death in the process. The reason for this seems to be simply for his own enjoyment and thrill, and he carries on doing so even though he realises just how much damage he is going to cause. This is evident when he says ‘His soul is so enfettered to her love’. This shows that he is aware of Othello’s undying love for Desdemona, but carries on regardless. Shakespeare’s use of language, imagery and themes is vital in is portrayal of Iago.
He uses things like alliteration to match Iago’s intentions. This is illustrated when he says ‘Super subtle’. This use of alliteration makes the ‘S’ sound seem like hissing, mirroring Iago’s scheming, sly intentions. Another use of alliteration along with imagery is the line ‘I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear’. This would give the audience an image of Iago literally pouring poison into Othello’s ear, and the ‘P’ sound gives the impression of Iago perhaps spitting whilst saying it, showing his disrespect towards Othello.
The colour black represents evil in this play, and Iago’s racism is shown through this. For example he tells Brabantio that ‘An old black ram is tupping your white ewe. ‘ This comparison of white and black… purity and evil shows Iago’s ignorance to real love, as it can occur no matter what race your are. Iago claims he will ‘make the net that shall enmesh them all’. The use of sound patterning shows Iago’s ingenious, creative personality, but the idea behind the words shows the true evil in his heart.
In conclusion, I think through language, imagery, soliloquies and dialogue Shakespeare presents Iago to the audience provokes them to feel in awe of him, both because of his ingenuity and his sheer audacity to create such a tragic downfall without guilt. However, it does not go unnoticed to the audience of Iago’s misogynistic, cruel, manipulative soul. The end result of the play is for the audience to hate Iago, but at the same time admire what some might call, his ‘intelligence’.