To what extent is Iago presented by Shakespeare as a tragic villain without redeeming features? Notes to expand on later
Iago is possibly one of the first villains of Shakespearean times with both redeeming and villainous qualities. In the tragic play “Othello”, by William Shakespeare, Iago is shown as an honest yet manipulative villain; which is uncommon for villains in texts written in Shakespearean times as it humanises the villain. London councils at the time thought that theatre should not allow the audience to relate to villainous characters as it was a negative influence on society so the character of Iago is very unusual and complex.
Iago is man driven by his own motives throughout the entire play, manipulating others to do things in his favour. Through Iago’s actions in the play we can come to the conclusion that Shakespeare has only partly created a character of tragic villainous qualities with no redeeming features due to his honest virtues which can be seen when Othello strikes Desdemona in public and Lodovico asks Iago if Othello is always like this. Iago says “It is not honesty in me to speak/What I have seen and known. You shall observe him, / and his own courses will denote him so/That I may save my speech” (4.2.LL268-271). Also we directly hear from Othello in Act 2 scene 3 that “Iago is most honest” which shows that Othello, who Iago is plotting against, thinks that Iago is a reliable friend of his. Later on during the scene, after Cassio is drunk, Iago tells Montano that Cassio is a drunk and Montano instructs Iago to tell Othello out of loyalty “It were an honest action to say/ So to the Moor”. Through the two contrasting sides to Iago we see a man who is well liked by people and is control of the situation which could be a negative thing, due to power and influence being too strong making manipulation extremely easy.
Shakespeare also creates the character Iago as more of a prominent tragic villain rather than a character with a...
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