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To what extent does Iago contribute to the tragedy of Othello?

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To what extent does Iago n contribute to the tragedy of Othello? Joe Stanford Iago explains in Act 1, Scene 3, how 'Virtue' is 'A fig!' and ''Tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus'; he believes how 'Our bodies are gardens' and 'our wills are gardeners'. This demonstrates Iago's profound understanding of human nature, and his belief that one's 'will' or strength of character is a powerful tool to control oneself. Iago uses his knowledge of 'will' advantageously; using it to manipulate characters' minds. Underpinning his manipulation lies what Coleridge cited as 'motiveless malignity', yet one might say his chief motives are clear. In Act 1, Scene 1, Iago is angered by Othello 'already cho[osing] [his] officer', Michael Cassio. Iago failed to attain the promotion, especially by a man who has 'never set a squadron in the field' of war. Not only does Iago strive for the position of lieutenant, but Cassio's advancement renders a hatred for Cassio. It is revealed in Act 5, Scene 1, that Cassio owns 'a daily beauty...which makes me [Iago] ugly'. Another motive charged by jealousy. In Act 1, Scene 3, Iago states 'I hate the Moor' as he believes Othello has slept with Emilia - 'done my office'. ...read more.


Iago's innocence also induces Othello's trust and intimate bond with Iago which is needed for Othello to have a just reason to kill Desdemona. Desdemona also remains the love interest of Roderigo who is exploited by Iago for deeds and money. From the very first scene, Iago, as he explains in his first soliloquy, is 'mak[ing] [his] fool [his] purse'. This illustrates Iago's dominion over Roderigo, and his manipulative relationship with him. Whilst Roderigo believes he is nearing the arms of Desdemona through the medium of Iago, Iago uses Roderigo's affection advantageously: to rid of Cassio for Othello. Roderigo's motives are thus false due to Iago's ruse, yet Roderigo pursues Cassio - instead of Iago. This provides Iago's security in that the act further removes Iago from the tragedy. Deception remains a fundamental characteristic of Iago's villainous nature. His actions not only illustrate his nature, but so does his language. Even the very forms of Iago's language - his asides and soliloquies - demonstrate Iago has power; while Iago is driving the action, he is even able to comment on it using the theatrical conventions. Iago is quite theatrical as a character - like an actor. His sudden adaptations to the situation by changing his mood are most befitting of an actor. ...read more.


Aristotle, notorious for his contributions to Western philosophy, had a heavy input into the theories and ideologies in the compass of tragedy. One, theoretically, should experience catharsis at the end of a tragedy. In Othello, one experiences the catharsis of pity and fear brought out by the suicide of Othello. Aristotle also introduced the hamartia idea; the error that rendered the hero's downfall. What contributed more to Othello's tragedy? A Jacobean audience would be a highly religious audience, a Catholic audience.. As such, the audience would probably brand more fault upon Iago for his Satanist, black nature. However, I believe that Othello is more at fault. Such a 'noble Moor' should have investigated into the situation further, disallowing passion to consume him. Othello rendered himself susceptible to tragedy. His na�ve knowledge of Iago being an 'honest man' overall cost him his love and life. Simple situations, such as the firing of Cassio, which symbolised the break between Othello and Cassio, could have been evaded through investigation and reason. Iago acted as a catalyst to the tragedy, and merely induced the passion within Othello. Iago directly pursued little. Othello is, ultimately, a play of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding others and oneself. Socrates said 'From the deepest desires often comes the deadliest hate', which demonstrates perfectly that feeling and emotion are dangerous instruments. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay responds averagely to the task. Despite looking at Iago's presentation as a villain, which is strong here, there is little argument surrounding Iago's influence on Othello's tragedy. I would recommend with a question like this to define tragedy. ...

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Response to the question

This essay responds averagely to the task. Despite looking at Iago's presentation as a villain, which is strong here, there is little argument surrounding Iago's influence on Othello's tragedy. I would recommend with a question like this to define tragedy. This can be Aristotle's views, Stoppard's or any other viewpoint which works to fit your argument, but it is essential you have a sharp focus. I have read many Examiners' Reports at A-Level, and the biggest downfall for English Literature coursework and exams is the lack of focus and clarity of argument. Paragraphs starting "Venetian society has a certain attitude towards women" seem to have little relevance to the question, and so this focus is not evident here. There are times where this essay switches arguments, saying that Shakespeare's technique "removes Iago from the tragedy". You cannot sit on the fence at A-Level, and whilst there may be points which disregard your argument, it is better to acknowledge them and explain why they are weaker than to give them equal consideration.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is good. The paragraph discussing deception is great, looking at the dramatic device of soliloquies and how Shakespeare manipulates these to show Iago's power. There are plenty of points in this one paragraph which could be padded out to make a coherent argument, meaning the weaker points can be removed. If I were writing this essay, I would dedicate a whole paragraph to Iago's soliloquies foreshadowing and engineering Othello's downfall. The hellish imagery can be expanded upon to mention satan and the connotations of Iago as a devil. The point about Othello causing his own downfall is interesting, as I feel Shakespeare presents no internal conflict in him, and this is evident through his lack of soliloquies. Some of the points aren't strong enough to have a convincing argument, and this is often through the lack of evidence when assertions are made. For example "Perhaps Othello is more to blame" is not convincing with no evidence. Language needs to be closely analysed more here, and looking at how Shakespeare has Othello's language mimic that of Iago's later in the play is a great way to discuss this. The analytical ability is present here, it just needs to be more focused on the question for examiners to give credit.

Quality of writing

This essay has an okay structure. The introduction does little to offer a definition of tragedy or pose a convincing argument, and the conclusion seems jumbled. I liked how Aristotle was included, with his views of catharsis being significant. However, I feel that this is not placed correctly in the conclusion. These should be pivotal to the argument, looking at how Othello arguably has no hamartia if it weren't for Iago engineering his downfall. By placing them at the argument, they seem as an afterthought rather than being weaved into the analysis. Similarly with the reference to the Jacobean audience. It's important that you don't make comments about context after the analysis, but rather integrate it. For example "the audience would probably brand more fault upon Iago for his Satanist, black nature." would be relevant when discussing the hellish imagery, but it is out of place in the conclusion. The style here is good, and it reads very well. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are great.

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