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The Portrayal of Iago Character in the Play Othello

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In spite of all that modern critics have said on “Tragedy”, the definition of tragedy in the “Poetics” still remains the best. Aristotle said that “Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear”. Although “Othello” covers the definition of tragedy, given by Aristotle in his book “Poetics”, but it is entirely different from all other Shakespearean tragedies. The reason is, Heroine of play is more tragic then Hero. Tragic flaw is the error of judgement which leads protagonist towards his/her declination.

The tragic flaw of Desdemona is, her “Romanticism”. She puts herself in the world of “Idealism”. That is why when she is going to marry with Moor, she puts the reputation of her father on danger. It is daring step to break all social conventions and go against the will of family. She falls in love with Othello just because of his stories, which Othello told her.

As Desdemona said in ACT 1 Scene 3, to her father in front of Duke “I am hitherto your daughter but here’s my husband, And so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you before her father, So much I challenge that I may prefers, Due the moor my lord”.

Desdemona is completely unable to approach life practically instead she sees it as a fantasy. She is very eager to go Cyprus with Othello. As she said in ACT 1 scene 3, to Duke “Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate”. Later on she said “The rites for which I love him are bereft me’. From these lines, we can say that she is more desperate in her nature. She is unaware that Love is not enough for a happy life. Matrimonial life requires mutual and equal understandings between the two. There is a huge difference between ideal and practical life. The error of judgment makes Desdemona blind. She cannot see what is going around herself.

In ACT 2 Scene 1, on the coast of Cyprus Desdemona received Othello and Othello said to her “If after every tempest come such calmness, May the winds blow, till they have wakened death”. Later on he said “if it were now to die, Twere now to be most happy”. After getting this kind of comment form Othello, how can she imagine that Othello will suspect on her. Even no one can imagine it. She has firm faith on her love.

The idealistic approach of Desdemona, stops her to think and see upon the reality. Even she has no idea about conspiracy which is being plotted by so called “Honest Iago”. When she finds change in behavior of Othello, she justifies herself by thinking that it might be happen due to some political or pressure of state affairs. She cannot see the factual reality.

In ACT 5 Scene 2, when Othello is going to kill. She said “I hope you will not kill me. Why I should fear, I know not since guiltiness”. Othello Said “think on thy sins”. On this she said “They are loves I bear to you”. At the end she has no idea that she is going to be killed just because of her blind and idealistic love. She is more innocent. Desdemona’s idealistic world that is her hamartia leads her towards the declination.

Only love and only money is not enough for matrimonial relation. The real thing that is required “understanding between husband and wife”. The story “Button Button” by “Richard Matheson” depicts the example of this. In the last line of the story Mr. Steward (the agent) said “DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU KNEW YOUR HUSBAND?”. Understanding is the basic requirement of any relationship.

The unhealthy relationship between Desdemona and Othello is the major fault in Desdemona's death. Multiple aspects are involved in it. First of all, a sense of insecurity in Othello is remarkable which influences his intendance at pivotal moments. This insecurity is derived from his race. There is a social gap between Desdemona and Othello which shakes Othello’s faith in Desdemona’s love. He fears that woman as beautiful and polished as Desdemona cannot really love a man of another race. His insecurity has revealed many times in his dialogues. When Iago tries to arise doubt in Othello's mind about Desdemona's infidelity in act 3, Othello responses by saying, “Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw / The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt ; / for she had eyes, and chose me.” Othello modestly speaks about his “weak merits”. His insecurity is clearly shown when Iago further talks about Desdemona's relationship with Michael Cassio. Othello speaks in a monologue “Happy, for I am black / And have not those soft parts of conversation / That chamberers have, or for I am declined / Into the vale of years.” It is evident that Othello is worried about his race. He realized that his wife is white and belongs to respectable class. He feels that he is not capable of Desdemona's love and she might be involved with someone.

Another fact which make their relationship weak is lack of communication between them. They love each other but love is not everything to spend a whole life with each other. Their supposition about each other drive them into two camps. They do not reveal themselves to one another. Desdemona discusses her domestic problems with others but she does not talk to her husband about the problems. When she lost her handkerchief, she does not share this with Othello but Emilia : “Believe me, I had rather have lost my purse / Full of crusadoes. And, but my noble Moor /Is true of mind and made of no such baseness / As jealous creatures are, it were enough /To put him ill thinking” (act 3. iv. 23-32). Desdemona does not discuss these matters with her husband in order to solve them. The formality of words are seen by readers between them. At the crucial moments, they both treat each other as a respectable strangers and consequently only formal politeness rules in her death scene.

The third aspect which plays role in their fragile relationship is Generation Gap. Othello is an older man, married to a young woman. Othello believes that Desdemona and Michael Cassio are in love with each other because Cassio is younger than Othello, which makes Othello feel threatened. However, age has a little impact on the relationship in contrast to other aspects.

Furthermore, social gap also plays a vital role in their breakable relation. They are from different social classes. Desdemona is the daughter of a senator, an upper class man. While Othello is a general in the Venetian Military. This is also one of the reason for Othello's inferiority. He thinks competitively not collaboratively. The openness can make a bridge of trust between Othello and Desdemona but they do not reveal themselves to each other which bring disaster to their life in the form of Desdemona's death.

Iago is presented as a master mind villain in Othellowhile Desdemona is innocent.Othello is heroic but he is simple.Shakespeare has portrayed Iago as a good character full of dutifulness apparently but actually he is full of poison.It is natural to desire human suffers but to leave a desire is also suffering.Iago desires; due ot the rejection by Othello, he feels envy.

An evil mind cannot understand what love is because love cannot exist where evil can. Therefore Iago chooses a bad way to satisfy his emotions filled with jealousy. He for the sake of revenge, uses a deadly way to kill Desdemona by Othello. He wants to destroy Othello by every mean so he finalizes to destroy the married life of Othello. This is possible only through the parting of them and parting comes to an end by death.

It can be expected by Iago to attempt such act because of the way he treats his friendship and women. His treatment to women makes him more unpleasent. He says for Emilia:”It is a common thing...To have such a foolish wife.” It clearly shows that the one who is not loyal with his own wife cannot be with anyone.

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He even uses Roderigo in his trick and when he feels no need of him he leaves him. Iago can be explained as Appearance is not reality. He shows his double faces.As he says: “I am not what I am”. He wears a mask of honesty and goodness throughout the play. He has pride as well because of his experiences. He adopts an evil way to take revenge from Othello by convincing him to kill Desdemona. He used Othello for this. Othello is victimized by Iago because he ahs lack of stiffness in his love. He has no intensity in his love as there should be.

Iago is ready to confront that is why he uses such way. He distracts Othello by asking him about Cassio and Roderigo. He moreover tries to convince Brabantio by urging the sense of honour in him. He creates the issues which are irrational according to the vison of love but his cunning nature makes them rational. But he knows that Othello has strong faith in Desdemona and that is not fragile. Othello says:”I’ll see before I doubt, when I doubt,prove; And, on the proof, there is nomore but this, Away at once with love or jealousy.”

Then Iago asks him to observe her carefully with Cassio. Sharp minded Iago is well aware of his surroundings. He has ability to read the characters around him therefore he easily diverts the lovers. Iago has naturally evil in his nature. His eyes can see his master’s good. He is annoyed due to Othello’s decision of not opting him. He does not feel it good that a person who os less worse than him is selected for the rank he should be. That is why he says:”I know my price, I am worth no worse a place.”

For the fulfilment of his evil purpose ,he uses even his own wife. His relation with his wife is not strong so his wife does what he says without saying a word. He asks her to steal the hand kerchief and she does for making his husband happy. She is not proved a loyal driend to Desdemona. Nature od evil in Iago has proved poisonous. Iago is one of the other factors that is included in Desdemona’s death. It is natural to feel jealous but lack of wiseness does not work in life. Iago is dishonest too because all of the words and the reasons that he told Othello were wrong and unreal. He portrays Desdemona a lustful lady actually she is not. The most powerful thing that Iago has is the trust by Othello. He is happy to ruin Desdemona’s happiness because her happiness is in her happy married life. Othello also becomes happy by seeing her happy so Iago holds his strings in his hands and makes Othello act as he wants.

As he won Othello’s faith he won Desdemona’s trust as well. He used to be innocent and loyal before her. She asked for his opinion in her personal matters. She said: “O good Iago, What shall I do to win my lord a”gain?Good friend, go to him; for, by this light of heaven,I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel:If e'er my will did trespass 'gainst his love”And for ensuring her trust he used manipulative language. He said:”Do not weep, do not weep. Alas the day!

This is how he managed for his plan and wore a mask of goodness before Desdemona and she blindly trusted him.

Roderigo is in love with Desdemona who has married a Venetian army general Othello. Roderigo desires that he should have been the one whom Desdemona should have married. His psychological condition of jealousy arising in his feelings towards Othello relates to his sexual feelings and power of being attracted to her.

When the Duke of Cyprus approves the marriage between Othello and Desdemona, Roderigo wants to give up his chance of being with her and wants to drown himself and commit suicide which adds to his emotional insanity of being passionately in love with her. Iago’s false conviction of Cassio and Desdemona’s secret love affair makes Roderigo more jealous.

Iago’s words, ”Put money in thy purse” which he says to Roderigo highlight his promise that he can have Desdemona even though she is married to Othello. So Iago’s plan is to convince Roderigo to fight with Cassio in order to get Cassio in trouble. Cassio is just a noble Venetian second-in-command lieutenant to Othello from whom Roderigo and Iago are very much jealous and infuriated.

Desdemona is considered to be the most underestimated heroine of Shakespeare.Her character is portraied as a submissive and immature in play.She is non violent as compared to other heroines of Shakespeare.Lady Macbeth in play “Macbeth” helps her husband to kil King Duncan and laterbon she herself kills guards.She is very active in whole play and she is the one who instigate her husband to kill King but in this play Desdemona is passive in her approach. Desdemona is very humble and caring person. This is one of her fault that let herself be killed.

Desdemona loves her her husband. She confesses it when she says,”I did love the Moor to live with him”. This unconditional love leads her to her to her end. Othello also loves her. He even says that his life depends on her faith. Two main characters love each other but miscommunication leads toward tragedy. They do not communicate well in whole play. They learn things from others and do not communicate with each other for that. Lack of communication between husband and wife leads towards death of Desdemona.

Their love is true and faithful but it is highly unlikely. They both belong from different backgrounds. Desdemona is a delicate Venetian beauty and Othello is a Moor. He is a soldier and warrior. He has spent his whole life in battleground. Desdemona is raised as a daughter of Venetian senator. They are unable ti understand each other because of this difference of backgrounds. This is also a reason that leads her to her tragic end.

Her love for Othello is true. She Loves him so much that she ignores the norms and values of Venice. She expects this attitude from Othello but he does not act in this way. He always thinks that she will betray him for a yonug and beautiful man. He thinks that she will like to marry some Venetian noble man. The tragedy depends on the nature of Desdemona’s love for othello. It is unlikelihood of this love that determines it’s end. Othello himself can not believe her.

Iago is indeed most clever and cunning character in play. He does not have to put extra effort to cause chaos in the lives of Othello and Desdemona. He just triggers the weakest part of Othello. He makes him believe that she is unfaithful and she has committed adultery with Cassio. He has manipulated the event of handkerchief And make Othello believe that Desdemona and Cassio are having a love affair. Truthful nature of Desdemona helps Iago to manipulate and expolite this situation. Desdemona has promised Cassio to help him to get his position back as a Lieutenant. Iago has manipulated this whole situation and in the end Desdemona is killed by her husband.

Desdemona is loyal to her husband. She has chosen Othello over her father. Her father does not like that and he has warned Othello abour her attitude. If she can leave her father she can leave her husband. Desdemona proves her love by going with him Cyprus and she consumate her marriage.This is a tragedy of love which does not believe in race, age bad social status but it is ended in disaster. Death of Desdemona is a tragedy of love which is true in it’s nature but socially and racially “beyond belief”.

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The Portrayal of Iago Character in the Play Othello. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
“The Portrayal of Iago Character in the Play Othello.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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