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Essay: Othello Character Analysis

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published: March 18, 2021*
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  • Words: 1404
  • Tags: Othello essays Shakespeare essays
  • Othello Character Analysis
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The play Othello by William Shakespeare is one of his greatest plays that is revolved around drama. It talks about friends and how not everyone can be trusted. Shakespeare wanted to tell a story of how no matter how close you are to someone you can never truly trust them. The research of characters in the story is important in helping find out the main theme in the play. Iago is one of the most interesting characters in the play. He is an extremely smart yet secretly evil character that is obsessed with jealousy and seems to have a hatred for people who are in a better or higher position than him. You see this through his actions where he makes sure that people’s relationships do not end well. He manages to kill Emilia, his wife, and to convince Othello to kill Desdemona. This shows the real character of Iago and the reasons for destroying peoples lives the way he does.

The play Othello by William Shakespeare starts with two men talking to each other. The two men talking are Iago and Roderigo. Its night time in Venice and Iago and Roderigo are discussing Othello’s secret marriage to Desdemona. Othello is a military general so he is very high up in society and he works for the state of Venice. He is not from Venice though because he is a “moor” meaning he is from North Africa. Recently Othello just married a senator’s daughter secretly. Roderigo on the other hand is in love with Desdemona. Iago is telling Roderigo that he actually hates Othello because he did not choose him when he gave a promotion to Cassio (As stated in the website, ThoughtCo). The two men obviously are jealous of Othello and they are starting to plot on how to get him in trouble. At this point of the play they are going to Desdemona’s house and they meet Desdemona’s father. As the play goes on, Iago succeeds in making everybody turn against their loved ones and friends, to the point where they are killing each other. This shows that Iago is definitely an evil character.

There are many reasons why Iago hates Othello. Many of the reasons are that Othello is a Moor, Cassio was promoted to the position of a lieutenant instead of Iago, or maybe he is just jealous because Othello married Desdemona. Iago thinks his actions are justified by making up excuses. During the play’s duration, jealousy is one of the foundation in Iago’s plot to destroying Othello. Iago was a lower ranking officer of Othello who wanted to be promoted to the position of a lieutenant (Shakespeare-online). We see Iago describing his jealousy towards Cassio in the opening scene of Act I. He is telling Roderigo that Cassio has “never been set in a squadron” and that his battle knowledge is only theoretical (Shakespeare-online). He is saying that unlike Cassio, Iago had been in the military for many years and therefore the best person who should have been promoted. He says that he feels a sense of betrayal by Othello.

This is what is making Iago hate Othello, and this is clearly portrayed because he is only referring Othello as “the Moor” when speaking either to himself or to others. Jealousy is not the only thing that is making Iago to hate on Othello. He also had rumors that Othello had a love affair with his wife Emilia. In Act 1, Scene 3, Iago says ‘Twixt my sheets, has done in my office. I know not if it be true, but I, for mere suspicion of that kind, will do as if for surely’ (Othello, Moor of Venice). This is also the rumor that Iago uses as a source of revenge towards Othello. His revenge on Othello involves making Othello feel his pain by framing Othello about Desdemona false affair (Shakespeare-online).

Shakespeare in this narration is demonstrating to the audience that destruction of loyalty is only one of the results of envy. Othello’s raging jealousy is eventually inhibiting his clear thinking. Iago is using manipulation to cause Othello’s uncontrollable emotions, thereby ruling over Othello’s actions. At one point, Othello is being consumed with his emotions that he falls into a trance. Othello can blame no one but himself for his actions because it is his own fault not to seek Desdemona’s side of the story concerning Iago’s information. This is making it so easy for Iago to manipulate him. We can see Iago saying, “I told him what I thought, and told him that which himself found as apt and true,” (Shakespeare Act 5, Scene2). Othello at Act 5 scene 2 is referring to Iago as “the honest Iago,” which is a misconception and irony that is going to cost Othello his own life and the life of his wife Desdemona (Othello, Moore of Venice). He kills his wife without getting to hear her opinion which shows that his jealousy makes him to lose trust for her and think irrationally thereby committing murder.

Revenge is another reason that is driving Iago to destroy lives the way he is doing. The pursuit of revenge by the two main characters namely Iago and Othello is transpiring into a fate that makes Shakespeare demonstrate how revenge rebounds back to hurt the seekers of it. Iago is seeking revenge because he is feeling that he is better qualified. He is offended when Othello appointed Cassio as his lieutenant instead of him. Although Iago will finally secure the lieutenant status he is longing for, his plan is becoming more complicated as other unexpected factors starts to pop up. Examples of unexpected factors that are arising include the handkerchief and Othello’s plot to murder Cassio and Desdemona.

Othello gave his new wife Desdemona this handkerchief, which is supposed to be a symbol of their love. Iago however plants it in one of the quarters of Othello’s friend. By this, Iago is managing to persuade Othello to go in Othello’s friend’s quarter to see for himself. Othello has decided to go and upon seeing it, he is becoming so angry and jealous thinking that the two have slept together (Shakespeare-online). Iago then manages to use this to turn Othello against his wife as he is being convinced to kill his own wife for cheating on him. This scene is revealing the extent of evil in Iago’s heart by how he is managing to turn people against their loved ones.

Ironically, it is his wife, Emilia, who is unveiling Iago’s evil plot. Emilia is sarcastically saying to Iago in Act 5 Scene 2, “You have done well, that men have laid their murders on your neck,” (Shakespeare Act 5 Scene 2). Emilia is about to expose everything about Iago but halfway of telling Othello the truth, Iago his husband stabs her to death. This is the kind of evil character Iago is, that he has killed his own wife while she was trying to do the right thing. Othello on the other hand is seeking revenge on his wife for her “disloyalty” thereby killing her. However, when Othello figures out the entire truth, the damage has already been done and it is too late. After Emilia has revealed to him his mistake, he says, “No way but this, killing myself,” and commits suicide by stabbing himself and dying besides his dead wife.

(Shakespeare Act 5, Scene 2).

In conclusion, Iago is the most important character not Othello. We can agree to this because of how successful Iago is in his plans. Although his plans are not of good intent he still successful gets through them. The only flaw in his plan is he was eventually caught but everything he wanted to happen has happened. Iago is very smart but he is also extremely evil which makes him the most important character in the play.

Work Cited

Jamieson, Lee. “How to Understand Iago From ‘Othello’.” ThoughtCo,

Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare’s Othello – Othello’s Relationship with Iago and Iago’s Motive,

Shakespeare, William, et al. Othello. Bloomsbury, 2016.


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