Shakespeare's Representation of Iago: Central to an Understanding of Othello

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Year 11 Advanced English 2012

Assessment Task #1


“The Moor is of a free and open nature,
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by the nose
As asses are.” Iago – Act 1, scene III.

Evaluate Shakespeare’s representation of Iago as central to an understanding of the text Othello.

Othello by William Shakespeare is a tragedy that depicts the fall of an honourable man through the deliberate deception and manipulation of a dishonourable man. The play describes the protagonist Othello’s disintegration and the tragic consequences of his moral deterioration. In the tragedy Othello, Shakespeare develops themes of trust and betrayal and employs dramatic conventions such as irony, the fatal flaw of the protagonist and the use of the five-act structure.

In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the manipulative nature of the character Iago is directly linked to the idea of trust and betrayal, this is predominantly shown in Iago’s betrayal of his master Othello. Throughout the play Iago displays an ability to identify flaws and weaknesses of others, which allows him to create devastation through subverting others who follow their own agenda, to achieve a web of events. In the quote “Where I the Moor, I would not be Iago. In following him, I follow but myself” – Act I, Scene I, Iago explains to Roderigo, that he follows Othello, not out of love or duty, but because he feels he can exploit Othello’s flaws. Iago identifies Othello’s trusting nature, as seen in the quote “That thinks men honest that but seem to be so” Act I, Scene II and plans to use Othello’s trust in him, which he considers is a flaw, to bring about Othello’s downfall. Shakespeare uses the character Iago to highlight issues relating to trust and betrayal “I follow him, to serve my turn upon him”- Iago, Act I, Scene I. Iago is the ultimate protagonist, his lack of morals, duplicitous nature and ability to manipulate others allows him to make Othello...
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