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Villian and Heartless
Iago’s character in the play Othello is one of the most supreme creation of Shakespeare in terms of its individuality in characteristics which are so close to the true nature of humanity.
His character is sketched in such a way that its cold intellectualism, the height of villainy and heartlessness stand out from the very beginning of the play.
He is a great actor who calls every other character into action under his careful watch and no one is able to sense his deception until the very end.
He says, “I am not what I am.” His appearance is masterfully crafted by himself which differs entirely from his reality. Coleridge accused his character of “motiveless malignity.” In fact, it is not that motiveless.
In the very beginning, we get to know that the revenge he is seeking is due to his worth going unacknowledged by Othello who appointed someone else as a lieutenant rather than appointing him.
So, in such a defeat of his ambition, he grows discontent and starts scheming things for which he slowly develops a taste. He finally decides to even it out with the moor by “wife for wife.”
Well Aware of Weakness
Iago’s character shows a deep understanding of human beings. He knows the true essence and weakness of characters like Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, Cassio and even his own wife Emilia but he uses such an understanding in the evilest way.
William Hazlitt called his character “an amateur of tragedy in real life.” He doesn’t look at this world poetically like Othello rather he says, “for I am nothing if not critical.”
His character shows a superior level of self-consciousness. He seems to be completely aware of the level of his villainy so he is honest to his own self when he is false to everyone else. He says, “the blackest sins put on thy do suggest at first with heavenly shows.”
He shows contempt for human kinds but at the same time, he believes in advancement in life which makes him a very worldly-wise man.
The Extreme Evil
His intellectual depth bears no stamp of human emotions so even after great acts of devilry like ousting innocent Cassio out of his position, using Roderigo’s money and gifts in the name of Desdemona or ruining Othello coldheartedly, he shows not even the slightest hint of remorse.
In his character, Shakespeare has mixed an immensely capable human mind with extreme evil.