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Who is the villain in Othello?

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Iago is widely known as one of the most dangerous Shakespeare’s villains. He commits evil acts and provokes others by creating conflicts. Iago is a master manipulator as he uses Othello’s naivety and insecurities to destroy him and others on his way. As a result, the play tragically ends with numerous Iago’s victims.

Detailed answer:

The most famous villain character in Othello is Iago. He is jealous, manipulative, and vindictive. As a great psychologist, he detects people’s weaknesses and uses them for his own gain. Using his talent for manipulating, he achieves his vicious personal goals.

Iago succeeds as a villain due to his ability to make people trust him. During a conversation, Iago may seem like a person who is genuinely trying to help. However, as soon as his companion leaves the scene, Iago reveals his evil plans. The trust that he gains with other characters comes from his professional manipulative skills. He uses them to build trusting relationships and then fuel conflicts among the people who believe him. Being blinded by Iago’s trickery, Othello ultimately trusts him. The Moor even refers to the villain as to “honest Iago”:

“My life upon her faith! Honest Iago,
My Desdemona must I leave to thee:
I prithee, let thy wife attend on her:
And bring them after in the best advantage.
Come, Desdemona: I have but an hour
Of love, of worldly matters and direction,
To spend with thee: we must obey the time.”
(Act 1, scene 3)

However, as soon as Iago stays alone, he reveals his real thoughts and feelings. Here is what he tells about Othello:

“I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well;
The better shall my purpose work on him.”
(Act 1, scene 3)

Shakespeare created a perfect villain character that harms everyone around him to satisfy his selfish goals. Iago’s motifs are clear – he is dissatisfied with his life. Iago is motivated by jealousy and revenge that make him continue fulfilling his evil path.

  • Jealousy

Envious of Cassio’s promotion, Iago plans to frame him and make him lose his job. Iago is also jealous of Othello because he thinks his wife is cheating on him with the Moor. Moreover, the villain is secretly in love with Desdemona:

“That Cassio loves her [Desdemona], I do well believe it;
[…]
Now, I do love her too;
Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure
I stand accountant for as great a sin.”
(Act 2, scene 1)

Such a mix of feelings makes Iago commit evil deeds.

  • Revenge

A desire for revenge overwhelms him on the very thought that Othello could have disgraced his wife. Moreover, Iago cannot put up with Cassio’s promotion. Being confident about his skills, the villain is planning to get the lieutenant position. However, Cassio is appointed to be a chief lieutenant. Enraged Iago seeks revenge.

We can also see that Iago was not the only one to commit evil deeds. Othello appeared to be one of Iago’s pawns. The active doubt in his wife and ability to take violent action drove him on the path of a villain as well. We can see that one man’s jealousy could lead to disastrous results, innocent people’s death, and misery.

All in all, Shakespeare created an evil character to make the audience reevaluate their motives. Othello becomes a warning for all the potential villains and makes them think about the consequences of anger and revenge. It is also a reminder that we can all be misled by the villains in our lives, no matter how trustworthy they seem.

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