What is your view of this complex character and how would a contemporary Shakespearean audience have responded to him?
In Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, the reader is introduced to the character Iago. There are many different interpretations of his character, was he a ‘skillful villain’? Or was he a ‘mysterious creature of unlimited cynicism’? Or just a ‘wronged man’ who is more sinned against than sinning?
Iago indeed does show qualities for all of these different interpretations, Iago can be seen as a skillful villain and I believe that this is the strongest argument. his sly, manipulative insatiable appetite for power, ambitious confidence, and spiteful plan for turning all the other characters against themselves which, eventually leads to the destruction of the love between Othello and Desdemona..
He uses a foul mix of direct and indirect actions to ensnare and manipulate the characters around him causing them to trust Iago and listen to his advice thinking that it is for their benefit, whist it is actually Iago manipulating them for his own personal gain. This is shown when Iago manipulates Roderigo for his money, ‘who hast my purse as if strings were thine’ (I, i, 2-3) telling him that he will benefit from it whist Iago just takes it for his own. Futhermore because he knows that Roderigo loves Desdemona he uses this knowledge against him and instead of trying to help him he uses it to help himself. This is shown when Iago makes Roderigo wake Brabantio from his sleep to tell him about Othello and his daughter. This shows Iago using the knowledge of others to his advantage showing his skilled villain side, the critic, A.W. von Schlegel agrees with my view of Iago, he states he is a:
‘ Complete master in the art of...