Iago's Role

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Surely Othello possesses base characteristics--jealously, self-pity, murderous intent--but they are not presented as central or inherent to his character. They are not symbols of his otherness. "Othello's belief is not caused by jealousy; it is forced upon him by Iago, and is such as any man would and must feel who had believed in Iago as Othello did. His great mistake is that we know Iago for a villain from the first moment." This is the crux of the issue of sympathy for Othello's other status. In his own words, Iago presents the secret which becomes the crucial issue and redeeming factor for Othello's character: Iago is evil, and admittedly so. "Others there are/Who, trimmed in form and visages of duty, /Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,/And, throwing but shows of services on their lords,/Do well thrive by them, and when they have lined their coats,/Do themselves homage . . ./As such I do profess myself." (I.i.46-53) Somehow, portrayed as the innocent other who is duped by the conniving ways of an envious compatriot, Othello's character is relieved of responsibility. It seems that no matter how lunatic he may become, and murderous even, he will not be blamed for the murk of Iago's manipulations will overshadow all of Othello's indiscretions.

A metaphysical transformation takes place within Othello so that he becomes the exact antithesis of what he had been, and Iago is the facilitator. It is Iago's goal, seemingly, to transform the perception of almost every character in the play--from Cassio to Roderigo--to the opposite of what it had been. Even Desdemona shall not escape his injury, "If [Desdemona] be black, and thereto have a wit,/She'll find a white that shall her blackness fit." (II.i.130-1) Desdemona acknowledges the paradoxes in Iago's words, yet still she is unable to prevent these from becoming the paradox of her life. The universal effect of Iago's actions furthers the level of sympathy Othello receives in the text. He is not the only...
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