Compare and Contrast Othello and Iago






Compare and Contrast Othello and Iago

Othello is a dramatic play written by the great play writer, William Shakespeare. It is a play based on the Italian story, a Moorish Captain. It was written at around 1603 and Othello, the main character, is portrayed as a Moorish general. He worked in the army of that particular time. The setting of the play is Venice. Some of the thematic expressions brought out by the author are like love, discrimination based on race, jealousy and betrayal. Iago is the main antagonist in the play. He is a friend to Othello. He is very ambitious and gets jealous when Othello promotes another to the position of personal lieutenant. This act brews the plot of the story. Shakespeare then narrates the drama that ensues between Othello and Iago. The author does an impeccable job of displaying the two as rivals. Though they are rivals, Shakespeare displays various similarities existing between them. Their roles in the play are interpedently connected and build on each other in many ways.

The author expresses the drive of Iago’s character from the very beginning of the plot. Most of his actions in the play are driven by sheer jealousy. Iago explains to Roderigo that his hatred towards his once friend, Othello was sparked by Othello promoting Michael Cassio to lieutenant. In the plot, Iago is just a military officer and his need to rise above his rank supersedes that of anything else. “Be judge yourself, whether I in any just term am affin’d to love the Moor,’’ (Shakespeare, 38). These words from Iago seem to justify his anger towards Othello. He felt betrayed by an individual that he once considered a friend. Apart form this, he also smolders Cassio’s name, claiming that he is all talk and no action. This would mark the beginning of Iago as a villain in the text. Once a good man, he falls into vanity because of jealousy. He then goes to make sure that his intentions remain hidden from Othello. His intentions are to poison Venice against Othello.

Othello is the protagonist of the play. He is the best army general in Venice. He is married to a Venetian’s daughter. The prominent Venetian is Brabanito The union between Othello and Desdemona, his wife, spark many racial affronts against him. Othello was a black man and was considered vile. The plot of the play displays Othello’s as an honorable character. His traits are nothing but virtuous. He is intelligent and honorable. This image is tainted when he burns with jealousy. The envy is caused by allegations of a love affair between his wife and Michael Cassio. Othello’s love and possessiveness lead him to major extremes. He opts to kill Desdemona as opposed to seeing her with another man.

It is interesting to note that both Othello and Iago are defined by the Florentine Michael Cassio. He acts as a hinge character that creates a twist of events in the lives of the two characters. His promotion sparks jealousy that makes Iago to become a villain. He smolders with deadly anger. This is shown when he sends Roderigo to speak ill about Othello to Brabanito, “even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe,” (Shakespeare, 92). On the other hand, his alleged love affair with Desdemona also sparks jealousy on the side of Othello. Michael Cassio is used by the author to bring a major similarity in the characters of Othello and Iago. Though the two may appear to be different colors so to speak, there humanity connects them. Cassio brings out the extremity in their human emotions. Both Iago and Othello act irrationally because of jealousy.

Although similarities arise from the characters of Othello and Iago, there exists differences that define the characters as protagonist and antagonist respectively. Though the two are led by their emotions to act extremely, Othello’s motives appear to be noble and true as opposed to those of Iago that are funned by malice and deceit. Othello was led to believe that Desdemona had given Cassio Othello’s greatly cherished handkerchief. Othello had been given the handkerchief by his mother on her deathbed. She had asked him to give it to his future wife. “To lose ‘t  or  give ‘t were such perdition as nothing else could match” (Shakespeare, 69).The thought of this handkerchief being in another man’s hands infuriated him. Before killing his wife, he kisses her awake as a sign that he still loved her. His actions were done out of love. He loved the relationship he shared with his wife to the extent that he did not want to see it tainted. His humanity is seen when he confesses his vile after killing his wife.

Iago on the other hand is purely driven by malice and deceit. He had no affection towards Othello who had been led to believe the Iago was his friend. His coldness is seen when he lies to Othello without feeling an ounce of sympathy towards Othello who was once his friend. “I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offense to Michael Cassio,” (Shakespeare, 182). Iago spoke these words to Othello right before bearing false witness concerning Cassio. Iago had no shred of tenderness in him. This is shown in his deceit to the point of even advising Othello on how to kill his wife. He did this with the awareness that it was actually he that created the drift between Othello and Desdemona. Through all this, Iago expresses no intention to reveal all that he had been doing. The truth only comes out when Emilia, his wife, discloses his actions to Othello.

Iago defines Othello as a character. As the antagonist of the story, he is brought out as a malicious villain who has nothing but selfish interests at heart. His callousness is used by the author to bring out unseen vices of Othello. Iago helps to reveal to the audience the vulnerability and fallibility of Othello. Iago manages to deceive Roderigo into acting as his puppet. He manages to use him for vile. He also drags his wife along into his schemes and uses her to help in planting Desdemona’s handkerchief into Cassio’s room. The extremities of Othello are based on the malice of Iago. Iago greatly steers the plot of the play. His character helps to develop that of Othello.

Othello’s character lays emphasis on Iago’s vices. Iago’s inhumanity is greatly displayed when juxtaposed with the character of Othello. Othello’s vulnerability and naivety helps to portray Iago as a selfless character. His honesty in admitting the act of killing his wife further magnifies Iago’s malice and deception. Othello helps to curve the sculpture of Iago’s character in the minds of the audience.

The roles of the two characters are interdependently woven. The author has used the both of them to highlight various characters in each other. Though the characters converge at some point in terms of their traits, they remain to be two distinct characters that give different contributions to the plot of the play.


Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1948. Print.

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