One cannot have a successful story without a villain. A villain helps to create conflict and a plot between characters, this is what builds a successful story. In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, Iago makes the perfect villain. With careful analysis, Iagos soliloquies let us know the hidden parts of him that none of the other characters know; he lets one into his mind, reveling his twisted thoughts and plans to ruin Othello’s life. Without the villainous role of Iago, Othello would not be the tragedy it is today, and instead just an empty romance without any conflict. However, with deeper analysis, some may feel a slight sympathy for Iago.
Iago's jealousy and hated began because he was overlooked by Othello for the job as lieutenant. He could have done just as good a job as Othello or better if he was given the chance. Iago directs his role as a villain with his first soliloquy, stating his plans to ruin Othello’s life, and many others, in order to gain his power and control. Throughout the play, he plants dangerous lies and ideas in Othello’s head to get him to succumb to his jealousy. Over time, he fools the great Othello into believing his wife is having an affair. The play is a tragedy because Othello ends up killing his beloved wife and himself because he was blind to Iago’s lies. Iago’s main target is Othello but he also lies, steals from, and manipulates almost every character he talks to; even his own wife doesn't know the true side of him. In the play, Iago hides his true emotions to the people surrounding him. Iago has shown that he is indeed the ultimate villain because he combined his knowledge of a human’s emotional reactions with his villainous nature to create a society in which he can control the other characters’ actions.
A lot can be interpreted through the words of Iago’s monologue. Iago’s villainous actions come from his deep resentment for Othello as stated in his first soliloquy. He keeps his deep hatred for Othello so bottled up that it becomes an obsession as he states “I hate the Moor” (Shakespeare 1203). This obsession drives him to betray people whom he was once close to. Iago’s words bring out the evil side of his personality as he manipulates the advantageous situation in which he is in since Orthello is a former close friend of his. Because, for the majority, most trust those who know them well, Iago assumes that Orthello will believe his lies over anyone else’s. This leads to a conniving convincing.
Iago states it loud and clear for the audience to see his true nature in the play stating “I am not what I am” and “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve" (1189). Although not directly stated, its easy to analyze the feelings from Iago’s “heart” are those of jealousy, hatred and revenge. As Iago’s feelings increase he comes up with a plan to destroy Othello as stated in his soliloquy in Act II, “Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me/ For making him egregiously an ass...” (1211). Iago knows that if he can obtain Othello’s trust then he will be able to hurt and destroy him in any way necessary. Tricking someone into believing that they are being honest and true is one of the most terrible acts possible for it is destroying the persons trust and emotions. Since Iago has the trust of Othello he is ultimately able to control him. He states in his first soliloquy, “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.” (1204). This is Othello’s biggest weakness and Iago’s biggest strength. Iago feeds Othello his lies in order to make him doubt not only himself, but Desdemona as well. Iago does these actions freely and willingly which makes him a villain.
The villainous character of Iago is an extremely important concept for the play, but within this villain is a master mind. Iago is no simple minded character, he is clever and cunning. He uses both of these characteristics to hatch his plan of destroying Othello: "And by how much she strives to do him good, she shall undo her credit with the moor. So will I turn her virtue into pitch, and out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all” (1219). Iago is so jealous of Othello that he plans to take everything from him. Iago plans to twist Othello’s beliefs into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him. As one can see, Iago is more than happy with not only ruining Othello’s life but ruining Desdemona’s as well. “Iago has no limits he’ll hurt Desdemona, Othello, Cassio, Brabantio, Roderigo, all of these characters may not have been the cause of Iago’s villainous nature, but they interacted with Iago enough to fall victim to him.
Iago is a true villain all the way through, acting in ways that seem to appear he could not be characterized as anything else. In the play, Iago comes forth as an apparently evil, vicious, and intelligent person who is creating havoc for reasons of seemingly pure villainy. However after examining the text, it can be stated that Iago has not always been a pure evil character, but was once honest and kind and still has honesty within him. Iago could not have held up a reputation for honesty his entire life if he was not truly honest at one time or another. By the time this play took place, Iago must have already changed is way of thinking from honest to evil because honesty was getting him nowhere. For example, he did not get promoted to lieutenant, his status was completely reliable on Othello, and he was jealous of Othello and Cassio who were leading a better life than he. Iago is put through a lot and knows that he is worth more than he was given: “Off-capped to him, and by the faith of man, I know my price, I am worth no worse a place” (1189). Although his actions can never been just, it is not hard to see why he was so passionate for revenge.
Still, Iago is not fully responsible for all the murders and crimes that occurred. The murders in the play would not have occurred if there was not a darkness inside every character. Jealousy or revenge seems to take hold of almost every character causing them to make rash decisions, even Iago himself. Iago only planted the images in his enemies and let them do the rest. Therefore Iago is only partially to blame for the murders in the story. He did not physically kill anyone himself, but he did lie and manipulate other to get his desired outcome. He makes the perfect villain because he provokes not only evil from himself but also from others.
When the characters do not know what to do, they look to the great and honest Iago for guidance. However, only the audience knows the true side of him through his soliloquies. Iago lets us into the darkest parts of his mind, revealing his true nature as a villain. He very well uses his honest reputation and manipulation to gain Othello’s trust as well as everyone else he encounters. Once he has Othello’s trust, Othello becomes a pawn in Iago’s chess game. Iago is able to manipulate Othello’s beliefs and feelings into what he wants. Iago chooses to keep his true feelings about Othello bottled up. Because of this, Iago’s fire just keeps on burning brighter inside of him. Iago has shown that he is the ultimate villain because he uses his persuasion and manipulation to control others emotions. Iago can do anything to Othello which is why he is the ultimate villain.