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Othello - Literary Commentary

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Literary Commentary: Iago’s First Soliloquy
In Othello, Shakespeare exposes Iago’s true self to the audience, or what we think of as his true self. During the last passage in Act I Scene III, Iago is alone on stage and delivers his first soliloquy, where the character shares his inside thoughts. When Iago shares his thoughts concerning Othello, his character starts to come out more. Shakespeare characterizes Iago as someone who wants revenge on Othello and plans a scheme to quench his thirst for vengeance. Shakespeare shows us how vengeful Iago is through his tone, figures of speech and diction.
Iago expresses his hatred towards Othello clearly with his tone. We notice this when he says, “I hate the Moor” (377). You can feel the aggressive voice like he’s talking through his teeth. There is a significant use for the comma placed after these four words. The comma gives it the pause it needs to emphasize his hatred for Othello. Buried behind the “honest” mask is Iago’s true face revealed. When he removes his mask on stage, he expresses his loathing feeling for Othello. Shakespeare also uses figures of speech to help characterize Iago. Iago states, “…led by the nose as asses are” (392-393). He uses this simile to compare Othello to a donkey, saying that he can pull him in any direction he wants. We can clearly see the amount of respect Iago has when he delivers this quote, yet he is the most loyal when he’s face to face with Othello. Shakespeare emphasizes how Iago manipulates other characters and uses them to get money, especially when he says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (375). In this metaphor, Roderigo is the fool and the purse is his money. This sort of behaviour would be justifiable if he was poor, or in need of money. Instead, even though he still has some status in the military, he chooses to be greedy and take money from others. We can already start make out the sort of character Iago is. Diction is one of the most critical components of Iago’s soliloquy. Throughout the entire soliloquy, Shakespeare focuses on words having to do with reproduction. It starts when Iago states, “twixt my sheets he’s done my office” (378-379) and ends it with, “Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light” (394-395). Iago accuses Othello of sleeping with his wife and in the play nothing is mentioned about this. This makes us assume that Iago is trying to find more reasons to despise him more. On another note, happiness and positivity is usually what we think of when we talk about reproduction because a new life is being born. Shakespeare, however, changed the entire meaning. He twisted it to something evil and negative. When he puts the words “monstrous” and “birth” side by side, he implies that his evil plan will be brought to life. Birth is a beautiful, auspicious thing, but monstrous is the complete opposite – frightening and evil. Shakespeare combined these two opposite things to give them a much more powerful meaning, Iago’s disastrous plan. In Iago’s soliloquy, Shakespeare shows us his true character, through different types of literary devices. The three that most stood out were Iago’s tone, figures of speech, and his diction. Shakespeare was smart to reveal Iago through a soliloquy to the audience. It helped the audience feel the need to tell other characters not to fall into his trap, and get the audience involved in the play to make them believe they are a part of it.

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