By Will Langford
Iago is a cunning character that effortlessly deceives the characters of Othello, as he is trusted by the clueless and he manipulates the ones in power in his favor. The reader is especially able to view Iago’s true sentiment in his soliloquy when he addresses the audience and declares his resentment of the moor; a hatred that eventually brings the abrupt downfall of the characters of Othello.
Due to Iago’s compassionate words and his ability to be two faced, he easily infiltrates the minds of the characters of Othello and asserts himself as the puppet master of the naive and vulnerable. Iago detests nearly every character of Othello, as he refers to Othello and others in a derogatory manner. When Iago calls Othello the moor this is especially derogatory as Iago is only seeing Othello at face value; which in this case is the color of his skin. Iago is also willing to blatantly relay his disgust towards the moor in his soliloquy seen in this passage: ”I hate the Moor:/ And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets/ He has done my office” (I.iii.381- 382). This shows Iago’s unrestrained hatred and his willingness to implicate Othello in something that’s only hearsay. Iago equally has ill feelings for his wife, Emilia, as he introduces her to the audience the first the audience sees her with a blatant put down, “Sir, would she give you so much of her lips/ As of her tongue she oft bestows on me,/ You’ll have enough” (II.i.100- 102). This quip from Iago says that he believes that Emilia is constantly berating him. Emilia is frustrated with her husband and the poor state of their marriage, although unlike Iago she desires for their marital relationship to improve. Emilia does this by deciding to trust Iago’s intentions and gives him Desdemona’s handkerchief that Othello gave to her. Iago is even able to trick his wife who knows more about his true face than most of the other characters. Iago deceives every character due to their untarnished image of him, yet Iago must be a persuasive and charismatic character to be able to successfully mislead his wife, who is not unaware of Iago’s bitter side who seems to be a pragmatic character. On the other hand, the other characters, excluding Iago and Emilia, adore Iago for his seemingly honest and compassionate nature, as proven by references to him as “honest Iago.” The audience would never conclude that Iago is honest since the text blatantly shows his deceiving nature. However, it is evident that the characters are oblivious to Iago’s real sentiment due to their references of Iago as honest. Othello especially believes that Iago is a credible source, as he presses him for information by saying, “What is the matter, masters?/ Honest Iago, that look’st dead with grieving,/ Speak, who began this? on thy love, I charge thee” (II.iii.170- 172). Exhibited in the text, the most important quality of Iago is definitely his duplicity. Roderigo knows Iago’s actual diabolic nature, and he is the only one privileged to this side of Iago. Shakespeare clearly intended for this quality to be highlighted by Iago’s reference to Janus, the two faced god. Iago, as well, was written to have two faces; one of honesty and compassion, and another of vehement and resentment.
Iago’s ability to create two faces of polar sentiments is how he creates an image of himself that is perceived as honest and allows him to infiltrate the minds of Othello. We, the readers, are aware of his knack for his treachery and being known as an honest man, yet the characters are tragically not aware, and even Emilia is able to be convinced that Iago has redeemable intentions, as Iago is truly capable of powerful influence and deception.