Iagos speech in Act 2 Scene 3 serves as an insight into many of Iagos personality traits, his lack of moral scruples, his delusional state of mind and his powers of manipulation and foresight.

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Edward Selig

Iago’s speech in Act 2 Scene 3, after he offers advice to Cassio about how to retain his military position as part of his cunning plan, serves as an insight into many of Iago’s personality traits. Shakespeare portrays through the speech, Iago’s lack of moral scruples, his delusional state of mind and his powers of manipulation and foresight. In his soliloquy he confirms the audience’s characterisation of him as a villain but he also questions their judgment through use of oxymoron, contrast, metonymy and rhetorical questions. Iago’s cunning nature is revealed through metaphor and simile. Through these language features, Shakespeare masterfully demonstrates how soliloquies are insightful into the character’s state of mind, plans and character traits.

Shakespeare illustrates Iago as a man, bereft of any moral scruple after initiating his plans to achieve retribution. It is not only the malicious side revealed in his speech that is testimony of his lack of a moral compass, but is also reinforced by a conflicting conviction of selflessness and generosity. His malicious side is highlighted by the characterisation of himself as a “devil” and a “villain”. The use of metonymies evidences his wicked nature. However, this is contrasted with his conviction that he is generous and selfless. This reassurance serves for selfish purposes, trying to cover the guilt he would have suffered from all these evil deeds. The contrast between good and evil is shown by “Devils willing the blackest sins” and “with heavenly shows.” It is further simplified with the oxymoron “Divinity of hell.” Therefore, Iago’s lack of moral scruples is not only portrayed by his malevolent side, but also through the reassurance of him as a selfless and charitable character for selfish purposes.

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Iago’s belief that he possesses charity and generosity, also shows the delusion in which he wraps himself. This is demonstrated through the rhetorical questions he presents to the audience such as “I play the villain, when this advice is free I give and honest…the course to win the Moor again?” and also “How am I then a villain to counsel Cassio to this parallel course directly to his good?” By breaking the fourth wall, Iago tries to prove to the audience, that he is generous and kind. However, Iago’s original intention in “following Othello to serve my turn upon ...

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There is some good, focused analysis in this essay, demonstrating close reading. As the essay is analysing one speech only, there is opportunity to explore more, such as use of verse, register of lexis, phonological features, syntax, caesura etc. The writer's suggestion that Iago believes himself to be charitable and generous is not really supported by the text, although they do attempt to offer evidence to support this view. It is important to read carefully and closely to ensure tone and meaning of the words are understood. Overall three stars ***