Who is Iago? Iago poisons people's thoughts, creating ideas in their heads without implicating himself. His first victim is Roderigo. Roderigo remarks, "That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine." [Act I, Scene I, Line 2] Throughout the play, Iago leads Roderigo, professing that ". . . I do hate [the Moor] as I do Hell pains." [Act I, Scene I, Line 152] He tells Roderigo to "Put money in thy purse" [Act I, Scene III, Line 328] so that he can win Desdemona with gifts. Iago keeps for himself those gifts that Roderigo intends for Desdemona.
Iago is smart. He is an excellent judge of people and their characters. He knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and would do anything to have her as his own. Iago says about Roderigo, "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse." [Act I, Scene III, Line 359] By playing on Roderigo's hopes, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from him, thus making himself a profit, while using Roderigo to forward his other goals. He observes of Othello "The Moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so" [Act I, Scene III, Line 375]
How does Iago see others? He sees the world and other people as animalistic and ruled by their basest desires. Perhaps Iago knows this because he knows himself so well. Iago warns Brabanzio that "even now an old black ram is tupping your white ewe
you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans" [Act 1, Scene 1, Line 88 and 110] Iago describes Othello as a man ". . . will tenderly be led by the nose as asses are." [Act I, Scene III, Line 377] Iago tells Roderigo "I never found a man that know how to love himself . . . Virtue! A fig! Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are gardens, to which our wills are gardeners . . . If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness...
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