Othello: Iago the Con

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Perhaps the most interesting and exotic character in the tragic play "Othello," by William Shakespeare, is "Honest" Iago. Through some carefully thought-out words and actions, Iago is able to manipulate others to do things in a way that benefits him and moves him closer toward his goals. He is the main driving force in this play, pushing Othello and everyone else towards their tragic end.

Iago is not your ordinary villain. The role he plays is rather unique and complex, far from what one might expect. Iago is smart. He is an expert judge of people and their characters and uses this to his advantage. For example, he knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and figures that he 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 355] By playing on his hopes, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from Roderigo, making himself a substantial profit, while using Roderigo to forward his other goals. He also thinks quick on his feet and is able to improvise whenever something unexpected occurs. When Cassio takes hold of Desdemona's hand before the arrival of the Moor Othello, Iago says, "With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio." [Act II, Scene I, Line 163] His cunning and craftiness make him a truly dastardly villain indeed.

Being as smart as he is, Iago is quick to recognize the advantages of trust and uses it as a tool to forward his purposes. Throughout the story he is commonly known as, and commonly called, "Honest Iago." He even says of himself, "I am an honest man...." [Act II, Scene III, Line 245] Trust is a very powerful emotion that is easily abused. Othello, "holds [him] well;/The better shall [Iago's] purpose work on him." [pg. 1244, Line 362] Iago is a master of abuse in this case turning people's trust in him into tools to forward his own goals. His "med'cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught...." [pg. 1284, Line 44] Iago slowly poisons...
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