The Triumphant Villain of Iago

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The Triumphant Villain of Iago

In analysis of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of “Othello,” famed 20th century literary critic W.H. Auden suggests that all the dastardly deeds are of Iago’s doing, and that “everything he sets out to do, he accomplishes”. I personally agree with this stance, as well as Auden’s proclamation that Iago is a “triumphant villain”. To fully understand how Iago fits the role of the “triumphant villain,” however, one must understand that there are two parts to this claim.

The first claim that Auden makes is that Iago is a villain. Shakespeare has only once in his literary career ever applied the term of “villain,” to a character, and that, fittingly, was to Iago. However, to further qualify Iago’s character to be a villain, one must go beyond simply the author’s intentions, but to the deeply rooted qualities that a villain must have. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a villain as an “unprincipled or depraved scoundrel; a man naturally disposed to base or criminal actions, or deeply involved in the commission of disgraceful crimes”. In close reading of the tragedy of Othello, it is very easy to infer that Iago does indeed fall into all of these categories quite gratifyingly. The actions that Iago commits certainly do qualify as unprincipled and depraved. It also does most definitely seem that Iago is naturally disposed to these crimes, seeing that he doesn’t feel any remorse from his actions, nor does he relinquish any sort of actions that would infer that he is attempting to stop all the despicable deeds he has planted the seeds for from being committed.

The second claim implied by Auden is that Iago is triumphant in his villainous acts. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “triumphant” as “that has achieved victory or success; conquering; ‘victorious; graced with conquest”. Seeing that Iago succeeded in tricking Othello into believing that his wife was unfaithful, along with leading both of them to an unfortunate death, it...
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