Iago: Shakespeare’s most sinister villain or simply a jealous lover scorned?

In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello the dramatic plotting and scheming of the character Iago proves how one man is simply able to manipulate the people around him and bringall the other characters to their downfall. Iago is seen to be the classic villain, working behind the back of his ‘friend’ and commander in order to gain personal benefits. However, these actions can be seen to be that of a jealous lover, seeking revenge in order to hurt the person that hurt him.

Being passed over for the position of lieutenant in the first act, Iago’s rage against a man he declares to love is seen to begin to become more sinister and that fuels his motivation to destroy Othello. With the belief that Othello slept with his wife, Iago’s rage has the motivation of sexuality within it, but this jealousy is not just being cuckolded by his commander but the fact his wife may have had the chance to be with the man that he desires. Iago is a complex sinister character, his rage and lack of emotion towards the end of the play brings together the conclusion that he has in fact been hurt on an emotional level, with the notion that if he cannot have Othello then no one else can.

Throughout the play, Iago is a character with a hidden hatred for women. The way in which he treats his wife Emilia and the way he has lack of sympathy for her death could stem from a jealous rage against the female gender as a whole. This hidden jealousy is seen to be directed to Othello’s wife Desdemona, the woman who is preventing Iago from being with Othello. The way in which Iago gains pleasure and happiness from not allowing Othello to enjoy his own marriage is seen to be jealousy of how his marriage is not as perfect as Othello’s, but the jealousy could be the homosexual passion he has towards his commander.

Act 3 scene 3 is where Iago starts to manipulate his commander into thinking his wife is being unfaithful. In Othello’s eyes Iago is a man who would not deceive him and that his trust isn’t even questioned. This scene is sometimes criticised to be similar to the vows made in a marriage ceremony ‘I am bound to thee for ever’, showing the bound that both men have to each other. ‘My Lord, you know I love you’ Expressing his love of Othello, Iago opens up to the man without the response he was looking for bringing the evidence to light that the love Iago feels isn’t simply that of friendship but that of something more.

Many critics analyse Iago as being the most evil villain in all of Shakespeare’s work that his plotting and scheming is simply that of an animal jealous of how an outsider is able to get the things he wants. But this jealousy is that of a scorned lover, broken and hurt by the rejection of a man who doesn’t love him in return.

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