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In the opinion of F.R. Leavis, "I ago's power is that it represents something that is in Othello" - To W H Auden, however, Iago was "a portrait of a practical joker of an appalling kind" - Discuss these and other ways of regarding Iago's role in the play.

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Introduction

In the opinion of F.R. Leavis, "I ago's power is that it represents something that is in Othello." To W H Auden, however, Iago was "a portrait of a practical joker of an appalling kind." Discuss these and other ways of regarding Iago's role in the play Iago is possibly the most heinous villain in Shakespeare, Iago is fascinating for his most terrible characteristic: his utter lack of convincing motivation for his actions. This is suggested in Auden's quotation in that Iago is a "practical joker" presenting his actions as unjustified and based on no real grounds. Also the connotation of a "practical joker" is that the tricks he plays are not fun for anyone but the joker, however, there is no textual evidence to suggest Iago takes humorous pleasure from his plots. This is probably because he is always justifying them to the audience, also his defences are not very convincing. In the first scene, he claims to be angry at Othello for having passed him over for the position of lieutenant (I.i. 7-32) which is reasonable, however, like in all tragedies the end is result is completely out of proportion to the initial grievance. It is just that Iago is unhappy Cassio was promoted over him but not that he plotted against Othello which concluded in many deaths. ...read more.

Middle

Such self-isolation leads to the deaths of Roderigo, Iago and Othello. This is suggested by Leavis' quotation in that Iago "represents something that is Othello", that something being obsession and perhaps jealousy. Both Iago and Othello have obsessive natures. Othello is driven mad by his struggle with obsession over Desdemona and obsession over her infidelity. Ultimately, his fixation with unfaithfulness, not Iago, brings him to his downfall. Although Othello's poor judgement of character also plays a massive role in his defeat. Likewise, Iago is obsessed by revenge and even has the ability to pragmatically change his plot in light of new events, for example his receiving of Desdemona's handkerchief. This brings him to his tragic death. Both Iago and Othello can be viewed as jealous characters, Iago warns Othello of the "green-eyed monster which doth mock/ The meat it feeds on" (III.iii.170-171). Othello becomes increasingly more jealous the more Iago manipulates his mind about Desdemona's affair. Eventually this jealously consumes his rationality and self control which he prides himself on. Likewise, Iago could be seen to be increasing engrossed in jealously from his resentfulness at Cassio being promoted over him. This jealousy motivates him to take revenge. However, this interpretation is flawed by Iago's soliloquies in that he can justify his actions so they are not just the outbursts from pent-up envy. ...read more.

Conclusion

While Othello is never rude in his speech, he does allow his eloquence to suffer as he is put under increasing strain by Iago's plots. In this way, Iago is used to force Othello into a state of emotional upheaval and so the audience can see his language suffers. In the final moments of the play, Othello regains his composure and, once again, seduces both his onstage and offstage audiences with his words. The speech that precedes his suicide is a tale that could woo almost anyone. It is the tension between Othello's victimization at the hands of a foreign culture and his own willingness to torment himself that makes him a tragic figure rather than simply Iago's ridiculous puppet. Another way of regarding Iago's role in the play could be to show how the characters seem to be the product of certain inevitable, natural forces, which, if left unchecked, will grow wild. Iago understands these natural forces particularly well: he is, according to his own metaphor, a good "gardener," both of himself and of others. Iago's line "Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme ... the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills" (I.iii.317-322) best explains how the plant metaphor functions in the play are more importantly, how Iago is able to manipulate everyone. ...read more.

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