“to What Extent Is Iago Presented by Shakespeare as a Tragic Villain Without Any Redeeming Features?”

Topics: Othello, William Shakespeare, Tragic hero Pages: 4 (1647 words) Published: March 19, 2011
“To what extent is Iago presented by Shakespeare as a tragic villain without any redeeming features?”

From the very outset of “Othello” we are made aware that Iago is the villain of the play. In fact Iago is not only one of the most well-recognised villains, he is also the one character who is given the most dialogue out of all of Shakespeare’s work. One of the many reasons why the character of Iago is still appreciated and celebrated could possibly be because of the way that he was the embodiment of Elizabethan views of Italian politics at the time. This can be seen by the way in which Iago’s ideology is heavily influenced by the work of Niccolò Machiavelli, therefore the historical context of the play can be said to play a part in the characterisation of Iago as he clearly demonstrates the Elizabethan view of a Machiavellian character as he uses explicit means as a way of gaining power and status, which can be seen in the way that he relishes in the downfall of the characters as a result of his own devilish actions.

In order to distinguish Iago as being a tragic villain we must first understand the definition of a tragic villain. A tragic villain is described as being a character that is either not in full control of their actions or emotions as a result of being a victim of circumstance. Tragic villains are also stated to face a crisis of conscience in which they submit to doing evil and often confused morals and as a result they believe that they are doing moral when in fact they are doing evil. Therefore it is clear that Shakespeare does not present Iago to be that of a typical tragic villain because it is evident that Iago does not possess a conscience and appears to be inherently evil like that of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Unlike the description of the classic tragic villain, Iago is completely aware of his actions as seen in his soliloquy in Act 2 Scene I where he expresses that “nothing can or shall content my soul ‘till I am evened with him, wife...
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