3. The Character Sketch of Iago in Othello by Shakespeare


One of the beautiful and memorable characters introduced by Shakespeare is Iago. Shakespeare his infused all his knowledge and worth to create this character. What a character he is! He is a villain but he is more prominent than the hero, Othello just like we see Satan in Paradise Lost. The whole story revolves round this character. Let’s read the major characteristics of his character.

The very first quality of his character is jealousy. He is jealous of Othello for his status and power he is enjoying in Venice. He is jealous of the relationship between Desdemona and Othello. Although his first and foremost purpose is to confuse Othello, he never forgets to create misunderstanding between them. He appears here as an immoral being who is ready to do anything to meet his vicious designs. At last, he gets success in marring the bond between a husband and a wife. He uses Desdemona, his wife Emilia, Roderigo and Othello to get his aim. He is so mean that he doubts his wife. He thinks that his wife and Othello are in a relationship. He does not have any proof of this but he says: “It is thought abroad that twixt my sheets he has done my office.” Similarly, he admits regarding Cassio and his wife: “I fear Cassio with my night cap too.” It all show that he is faced with the feelings of being inferior. Considering himself less attractive, he suspects his wife. He has feelings of envy for Othello and Cassio.

Second major quality of his character is that he is selfish and disloyal. He shows his loyalty to almost all the characters in the drama but actually he is doing so to fulfil win his purpose. He cheats Roderigo and befools him. He claims: “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.” He is selfish in his attitude and in one of the scenes, he admits to Roderigo: “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” Similarly, having damaged Cassio, he comes forward and appeases him. He suggests Cassio not to disclose Desdemona’s promising. “She’ll put you in your place again.” He sows the seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind and heart on one side, and on the other side he makes Othello favour Iago for his loyalty. Othello claims: “I am bound to thee forever.” Desdemona also seeks her help after she is called ‘whore’ by Othello. She says to Iago: “Oh good Iago, what shall I do to win my lord again?” Iago consoles her and replies in the following words. “Do not weep, do not weep. Alas the day!” he assures Desdemona that she should not fell disturbed. He tells her that it is some state problem that has confused Othello.

Third major characteristic of Othello’s character is his duplicity. He is wearing a mask on his face that he wears according to the situation he is faced with. With different masks he plays different roles before different characters in different situations. His real personality is absent when he deals with different characters. When deals with the problems of Cassio, he seems a sympathetic companion who offers solution to Cassio’s problems. In case of Roderigo and Emilia, he shows his materialistic attitude and appears before us as a cynical. He claims that he is hurt when he sees Cassio getting promotion.

Another major quality of Iago’s character is his racism. His feelings for women clearly show his attitude and racism towards women. He is conventional and narrow minded. He says: “Women rise to play and go to bed to work.” Similarly, his racism is very prominent regarding Desdemona and Othello relationship. He declares that Desdemona has married ‘poor trash of Venice.” He thinks so because Desdemona is white and she has married a black man.

Fifth major quality of Iago’s character is his pride. On the promotion of Cassio, he remarks that Cassio is a ‘bookish theoric.’ He believes that Cassio does not deserve it because Cassio knows nothing about battle and lacks experience.  He censures the system of preferment commenting that this system of promotion or preferment goes by letter and affection, not by the old gradation where each second stood heir to the first.

Sixth major quality of Iago is that he is a mischief-maker and an opportunist. Whenever he gets a chance of conspiring against others, he conspires and always seeks an opportunity to do so. He is the character that is always anxious, plotting against others and finding some ways of humiliating and destroying others.

To conclude, Iago’s character is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of literature. With his qualities though all are negative, he is the most dominating character of all the other characters in drama. He is a towering personality. All the other characters seem tiny creature before him. He is a liar, a conspirator, a sadistic, a revenge seeker, jealous of others, proud, arrogant, selfish and mischief-maker.  His character has become memorable like the character of Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton. His character has created a strong feeling and impact on the minds of the readers. He is truly the embodiment of a Machiavellian character.