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Audiences often find that Iago is the most attractive character in the play, yet he is also deemed to be a Machiavellian demi-devil(TM). What is your response to the role of Iago in the tragedy of "Othello"?

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Introduction

Audiences often find that Iago is the most attractive character in the play, yet he is also deemed to be a Machiavellian 'demi-devil'. What is your response to the role of Iago in the tragedy of 'Othello'? - Jessica Bryant The character of Iago could be said to be divided between the positive persona of evil artist and conversely, the negative persona of dirty-minded soldier (this draws parallels with the negative and positive Aristotelian opposing principles of 'tragic' and 'heroic'). It is this, as well as Iago's use of comic language and soliloquies, role as a playwright, sadism and Machiavellian tendencies that could be said to make him the most attractive character in the play. Iago's wit and verbal dexterity, in particular his lively and dynamic soliloquies, portray him as a comic trickster - aiding his magnetism to the audience. Through the use of improvisation we see Iago making comical mischief, for example, "Making the beast with two backs", a sexual statement of a transformation of Desdemona and Iago into a 'two backed monster' during intercourse, twisting their beautiful and spiritual relationship into something comically bestial. Although crude, it could be argued that Iago is merely a dirty-minded soldier and is entitled to such harmless and insignificant jests. Iago draws attention to "my manners", aping the 'courtesy' that he ridiculed in his soliloquy; again identifying the entertaining difference between what he implies and what other characters infer, in full view of the conscious audience. ...read more.

Middle

'black' under-flesh. Othello's language is 'infected' by Iago's: "All my fond love do I blow to heaven: Tis gone!", "Arise black vengeance from the hollow hell [...]" and "'O will I turn her virtue into pitch, [...] And out of her own goodness make the net [...] That shall enmesh them all [...]". This presents Iago's inhuman control over Othello, where it is not only his actions that are altered by Iago, but also his mindset. Such language is similar to Iago's cursing references to bbestiality, "Zounds [...] an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe!" and "you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse". In both cases, animalistic sexual connotations are used to sinfully depict the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. In many aspects, Iago could be said to be an intelligent Machiavell. Whilst he is essentially a servant, he is in many ways more intelligent than his master. "Now, whether he [Othello] kill Cassio Or Cassio kill him, or each do kill the other, Every way makes my gain", where he utilizes and exploits other characters to unwittingly aid his demands. Iago is observant and aware of the danger he is causing, "a frail vow betwixt an erring Barbarian and a super-subtle Venetian, be not too hard for my wits and all the tribe of hell", as he considers the susceptibility of Desdemona and Othello against his devilish wit. ...read more.

Conclusion

This reflects Iago as a devilish playwright. Iago displays an 'artistic delight in power and manipulating others' (Bradley, 'Seven Tragedies'); an aspect of characterisation adding to his persona of playwright. "This is the night that undoes me or makes me quite" - Iago controls the characters within the play, in the same way he controls the plot itself. Perhaps this is what makes his character so attractive. For many years critics have treated Othello and Iago as 'equal and opposite' ('The Arden Shakespeare') and this certainly implies Iago's character to be that of the Tragic Hero (where it would not be unjust to re-title Shakespeare's 'Othello' as 'Iago'). He has some of the positive attributes of a hero; Shakespeare's use of soliloquies reveal Iago's character to the audience, making them complicit and making him more accessible as is true of a 'hero', in addition to his intellect, wit and self-sufficiency. But, it is his tragically flawed, negative 'hellish' behaviour that advises us as an audience against this credence. Instead he is the catalyst and the 'bad half' of Othello the tragic hero, perhaps even Othello's own 'fatal flaw'. Despite his awareness of Othello's "free and honest nature", Iago entertainingly takes advantage of his susceptibility for Iago's own gain. Overall, it is the crude vitality of his speech that is at once repulsive yet engaging, making him possibly the most attractive character in the play. ...read more.

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