Iago’s character in Shakespeare’s Othello is the most complex character in
the story, leaving the audience with many questions about him and his actions.
Iago goes through with an intricate scheme which brings about the downfall of
many characters, but it seems almost impossible to do so without getting caught
along the way, as Iago is able to do. Iago’s reputation is his gateway to other’s
trust; known as “honest Iago,” he is able to manipulate others to an extreme
extent, not being caught until the end of the play. This trait of Iago sets up one
of the play’s themes, appearance vs. reality, what is seems real to the
characters but is different to the audience.
character is the emphasis of the play’s dramatic irony. In the first scene of
the play, the audience learns of Iago’s intentions to get some sort of revenge
on Othello for giving the lieutenant job to Cassio instead of him, and he plans
to stay close to Othello to keep his trust. This is the first time the audience
sees a glimpse of Iago’s deceptions, but it is emphasized later in Scene 3 when
Othello claims he will have Iago bring his belongings to Cyprus for him by
saying, “So please your Grace, my ancient. A man he is of honesty and trust” (1.3.321-323).
After Iago earlier telling Roderigo he can’t be seen plotting against Othello,
Othello calls him and honest and trustworthy man, which the audience already is
able to see isn’t true. This reoccurs throughout the entire play, as Iago’s
plot to damage the lives of others is all based off lies.
reputation of being an honest man is Iago’s foundation in his ability to
deceive and manipulate others. Iago bases his scheme off of being able to
easily manipulate others, especially Othello, since he is trusted so much and
is thought to be honest in everything he does. This is evident early in the
play when Iago says to himself, “The Moor is of a free and open nature that
thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will as tenderly be led by th’
nose as asses are” (1.3.442-445).