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Iago
Iago
is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello
Othello
(c. 1601–1604). Iago
Iago
is the play's main antagonist, and Othello's standard-bearer. He is the husband of Emilia, who is in turn the attendant of Othello's wife Desdemona. Iago
Iago
hates Othello
Othello
and devises a plan to destroy him by making him believe that his wife is having an affair with his lieutenant, Michael Cassio. The role is thought to have been first played by Robert Armin, who typically played intelligent clown roles like Touchstone in As You Like It or Feste
Feste
in Twelfth Night.[3] The character's source is traced to Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's tale "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi (1565). There, the character is simply "the ensign".

Contents

1 Origin 2 Role in the play 3 Description of character 4 Critical discussion 5 Motives 6 Other versions of the character 7 References 8 External links

Origin[edit] While no English translation of Cinthio
Cinthio
was available in Shakespeare's lifetime, it is possible Shakespeare
Shakespeare
knew the Italian original, Gabriel Chappuy's 1584 French translation, or an English translation in manuscript. Cinthio's tale may have been based on an actual incident occurring in Venice
Venice
about 1508.[4] While Shakespeare
Shakespeare
closely followed Cinthio's tale in composing Othello, he departed from it in some details. In Cinthio's tale, for example, the ensign suffers an unrequited lust for the Moor's wife, Desdemona, which then drives his vengeance. Desdemona
Desdemona
dies in an entirely different manner in Cinthio's tale; the Moor commissions his ensign to bludgeon her to death with a sand-filled stocking. In gruesome detail, Cinthio
Cinthio
follows each blow, and, when she is dead, the Moor and his ensign place her lifeless body upon her bed, smash her skull, and then cause the cracked ceiling above the bed to collapse upon her, giving the impression the falling rafters caused her death. The two murderers escape detection. The Moor misses his wife greatly, however, and comes to loathe the sight of his ensign. He demotes him, and refuses to have him in his company. The ensign then seeks revenge by disclosing to "the squadron leader" (the tale's Cassio counterpart), the Moor's involvement in Desdemona's death. The two men denounce the Moor to the Venetian Seignory. The Moor is arrested, transported from Cyprus
Cyprus
to Venice, and tortured, but refuses to admit his guilt. He is condemned to exile; Desdemona's relatives eventually execute him. The ensign escapes any prosecution in Desdemona's death, but engages in other crimes and dies after being tortured.[5] Role in the play[edit] Iago
Iago
is a soldier who has fought beside Othello
Othello
for several years, and has become his trusted advisor. At the beginning of the play, Iago claims to have been unfairly passed over for promotion to the rank of Othello's lieutenant in favour of Michael Cassio. Iago
Iago
plots to manipulate Othello
Othello
into demoting Cassio, and thereafter to bring about the downfall of Othello
Othello
himself. He has an ally, Roderigo, who assists him in his plans in the mistaken belief that after Othello
Othello
is gone, Iago
Iago
will help Roderigo
Roderigo
earn the affection of Othello's wife, Desdemona. After Iago
Iago
engineers a drunken brawl to ensure Cassio's demotion (in Act 2), he sets to work on his second scheme: leading Othello
Othello
to believe that Desdemona
Desdemona
is having an affair with Cassio. This plan occupies the final three acts of the play.

Othello
Othello
and Iago

He manipulates his wife Emilia, Desdemona's lady-in-waiting, into taking from Desdemona
Desdemona
a handkerchief that Othello
Othello
had given her; he then tells Othello
Othello
that he had seen it in Cassio's possession. Once Othello
Othello
flies into a jealous rage, Iago
Iago
tells him to hide and look on while he (Iago) talks to Cassio. Iago
Iago
then leads Othello
Othello
to believe that a bawdy conversation about Cassio's mistress, Bianca, is in fact about Desdemona. Mad with jealousy, Othello
Othello
orders Iago
Iago
to kill Cassio, promising to make him lieutenant in return. Iago
Iago
then engineers a fight between Cassio and Roderigo
Roderigo
in which the latter is killed (by Iago
Iago
himself, double-crossing his ally), but the former merely wounded. Iago's plan appears to succeed when Othello
Othello
kills Desdemona, who is innocent of Iago's charges. Soon afterwards, however, Emilia brings Iago's treachery to light, and Iago
Iago
kills her in a fit of rage before being arrested. He remains famously reticent when pressed for an explanation of his actions before he is arrested: "Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word." Following Othello's suicide, Cassio, now in charge, condemns Iago
Iago
to be imprisoned and tortured as punishment for his crimes. Description of character[edit] Iago
Iago
is one of Shakespeare's most sinister villains, often considered such because of the unique trust that Othello
Othello
places in him, which he betrays while maintaining his reputation for honesty and dedication. Shakespeare
Shakespeare
contrasts Iago
Iago
with Othello's nobility and integrity. With 1,097 lines, Iago
Iago
has more lines in the play than Othello
Othello
himself. Iago
Iago
is a Machiavellian
Machiavellian
schemer and manipulator, as he is often referred to as "honest Iago", displaying his skill at deceiving other characters so that not only do they not suspect him, but they count on him as the person most likely to be truthful. Shakespearean critic A. C. Bradley
A. C. Bradley
said that "evil has nowhere else been portrayed with such mastery as in the evil character of Iago",[6] and also states that he "stands supreme among Shakespeare's evil characters because the greatest intensity and subtlety of imagination have gone into his making."[7] The mystery surrounding Iago’s actual motives continues to intrigue readers and fuel scholarly debate. Critical discussion[edit] In discussing The Tragedy of Othello, scholars have long debated Iago’s role—highlighting the complexity of his character. Fred West contends that Shakespeare
Shakespeare
was not content with simply portraying another “stock” morality figure, and that he, like many dramatists, was particularly interested in the workings of the human mind. Thus, according to West, Iago, who sees nothing wrong with his own behaviour, is “an accurate portrait of a psychopath”,[8] who is "devoid of conscience, with no remorse".[8] West believes that " Shakespeare
Shakespeare
had observed that there exist perfectly sane people in whom fellow-feeling of any kind is extremely weak while egoism is virtually absolute, and thus he made Iago".[8] Bradley writes that Iago
Iago
"illustrates in the most perfect combination the two facts concerning evil, which seem to have impressed Shakespeare
Shakespeare
the most", the first being that "the fact that perfectly sane people exist in whom fellow-feeling of any kind is so weak that an almost absolute egoism becomes possible to them", with the second being "that such evil is compatible, and even appears to ally itself easily, with exceptional powers of will and intellect".[7] The same critic also famously said that "to compare Iago
Iago
with the Satan
Satan
of Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
seems almost absurd, so immensely does Shakespeare's man exceed Milton's Fiend in evil".[7] Weston Babcock, however, would have us see Iago
Iago
as "an human being, shrewdly intelligent, suffering from and striking against a constant fear of social snobbery".[9] According to Babcock, it is not malice, but fear, that drives Iago. For, " Iago
Iago
dates his maturity, as he considers it, his ability to understand the world, from the age at which he recognized every remark to be personally pointed. One only who lacks inner assurance and is so constantly on guard against any hint of his inferiority could so confess himself".[9] John Draper, on the other hand, postulates that Iago
Iago
is simply "an opportunist who cleverly grasps occasion" (726),[10] spurred on by "the keenest of professional and personal motives".[10] Draper argues that Iago
Iago
"seized occasions rather than made them".[10] According to his theory, Iago
Iago
"is the first cause, but events, once under way, pass out of his control".[10] Following this logic, Draper concludes that Iago
Iago
"is neither as clever nor as wicked as some would think; and the problem of his character largely resolves itself into the question: was he justified in embarking upon the initial stages of his revenge?”[10] Motives[edit]

Laurence Fishburne
Laurence Fishburne
and Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
as Othello
Othello
and Iago respectively, in a scene from the 1995 film version of Othello.

See also: Shakespeare
Shakespeare
on screen (Othello) Iago
Iago
has been described as a "motiveless malignity" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This reading would seem to suggest that Iago, much like Don John in Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
or Aaron in Titus Andronicus, wreaks havoc on the other characters' lives for no ulterior purpose. Léone Teyssandier writes that a possible motive for Iago's actions is envy towards Desdemona, Cassio and Othello; Iago
Iago
sees them as more noble, generous and, in the case of Cassio, more handsome than he is.[11] In particular, he sees the death of Cassio as a necessity, saying of him that "He hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly".[12] Andy Serkis, who in 2002 portrayed Iago
Iago
at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, wrote in his memoir Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic, that:

There are a million theories to Iago's motivations, but I believed that Iago
Iago
was once a good soldier, a great man's man to have around, a bit of a laugh, who feels betrayed, gets jealous of his friend, wants to mess it up for him, enjoys causing him pain, makes a choice to channel all his creative energy into the destruction of this human being, and becomes completely addicted to the power he wields over him. I didn't want to play him as initially malevolent. He's not the Devil. He's you or me feeling jealous and not being able to control our feelings.

Iago
Iago
only reveals his true nature in his soliloquies, and in occasional asides. Elsewhere, he is charismatic and friendly, and the advice he offers to both Cassio and Othello
Othello
is superficially sound; as Iago
Iago
himself remarks: "And what's he then, that says I play the villain, when this advice is free I give, and honest...?"[13] It is this dramatic irony that drives the play. Other versions of the character[edit] In looser adaptations of Othello, the "Iago" character is typically given a different name but is more or less the same as Shakespeare's. Prominent examples include:

"Ben Jago" (played by Christopher Eccleston), a corrupt police detective in a 2001 adaptation set in a London police department "Hugo" (played by Josh Hartnett), a steroid-addicted teenager in the film O (2001), which sets the play in a contemporary high school Ishwar "Langda" Tyagi (played by Saif Ali Khan) in Vishal Bhardwaj's film Omkara (2006), set in Uttar Pradesh, India "Jago" in Rossini's opera Otello Komali Paniyan (played by Lal) in Jayaraaj's Malayalam movie Kaliyattam
Kaliyattam
(1997) (English: The Play of God)

References[edit]

^ Simonson, Robert (10 September 2001). "NEWS; Liev Schreiber
Liev Schreiber
Is Iago to David's Othello
Othello
at Public Theater". Playbill. Retrieved 6 September 2017.  ^ Klein, Alvin (1 July 1990). "THEATER; Striking Performances Light Up 'Othello'". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2010.  ^ Verdi's Shakespeare: Men of the Theater, Garry Wills, p. 88-90 ^ Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Bantam Books, 1988. ^ Bevington, David and Kate, translators. "Un Capitano Moro" in Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. Bantam Books, 1988. ^ Bradley, A. C., [1904] (1974), Shakesperean Tragedy, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, p. 169. ^ a b c Bradley, A. C. (1992). Shakespearean tragedy: lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth (3rd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ^ a b c West, Fred (1978). " Iago
Iago
the Psychopath". South Atlantic Bulletin. 43 (2): 27–35. doi:10.2307/3198785.  ^ a b Babcock, Weston (1965). "Iago-an Extraordinary Honest Man". Shakespeare
Shakespeare
Quarterly. 16 (4): 297–301. doi:10.2307/2867657.  ^ a b c d e Draper, John (1931). "Honest Iago". PMLA: Publication of the Modern Language Association of America. 46 (3): 724–737. doi:10.2307/457857.  ^ Williams, Shakespeare
Shakespeare
(1995). Oeuvres Complètes (in French and English). Tragédies II (Bouquins ed.). Robert Laffont. pp. 46–47.  ^ V.i.19–20 ^ II.iii.315-16

External links[edit]

The Romantic Iago

v t e

William Shakespeare's Othello

Characters

Othello Desdemona Iago Cassio Emilia Bianca Roderigo Brabantio Other characters

Source

Della descrittione dell’Africa (1550) by Leo Africanus "Un Capitano Moro" from Gli Hecatommithi (1565) by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Sampiero Corso

Opera and ballet adaptations

Otello
Otello
(1816; opera) Otello
Otello
(1887; opera) Othello
Othello
(1892; overture) The Moor's Pavane
The Moor's Pavane
(1949; ballet) Othello
Othello
(1998; ballet score) Bandanna (1999; opera)

Films

1922 1951 1955 1965 1995

TV

1965 1981 1990 1994 2001

Stage adaptations

Masquerade (1835) Othello
Othello
(1951) Catch My Soul
Catch My Soul
(US; 1969) Catch My Soul
Catch My Soul
(UK; 1970)

Film adaptations

Jubal (1956) All Night Long (1962) Catch My Soul
Catch My Soul
(1974) Kaliyattam
Kaliyattam
(1997) O (2001) Eloise (2002) Souli (2004) Omkara (2006) Jarum Halus
Jarum Halus
(2008)

From Verdi

Otello
Otello
(1906; film) Othello
Othello
Ballet Suite/Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1 (1967; ballet suite) Otello
Otello
(1986; film) The Othello
Othello
Syndrome (2008; album)

Art

Othello

Phrases

"Beast with two backs"

Related

Othello
Othello
error Filming Othello Red Velvet The Duke of Milan Love's Sacrifice Desdemona Goodnight Desdemona

Story within a story

Carnival (1921 film) Carnival (1931 film) The Deceiver (1931) Men Are Not Gods
Men Are Not Gods
(1936) A Double Life (1947) Saptapadi (1961) The Dresser
The Dresser
(1980 play) The Dresser
The Dresser
(1983 film) An Imaginary Tale
An Imaginary Tale
(1990) The Dresser
The Dresser
(2015 film)

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 74650

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