In traditional Shakespearean tragedies the protagonist is destroyed through their own fatal flaw. The play Othello is different because there is a villain which is unusual for a Shakespearean tragedy. In the play Macbeth, the tragic events occur because of Macbeths own fatal flaw of ambition. However in the play Othello; Iago, one of the main characters manipulates Othello’s fatal flaw of jealously which leads to the tragic ending of the play.
He says how he is using Othello by “following him I follow but myself”; he is pretending to be loyal to Othello but is really doing it for his own benefit. Iago plans revenge on Othello when he gives Cassio the job of lieutenant instead of to him; he describes himself as “worth no worse a place” and is showing that he thinks highly of himself. Even after he manages to get Cassio dismissed and replaces him as lieutenant, he still continues to carry out his plan of destruction. This reveals that the reason of Iagos plans are merely just for fun.
Iago deceives everyone even Roderigo who supports him, not knowing everything about Iago’s plans, he even questions why he “ever made a fool my purse” which shows he is only using Roderigo for his own benefit. No-one in the play seems to know what Iago is really like. He manipulates everyone in the play to gain their trust although he only uses them. Cassio praises Iago by saying that he had sung “an excellent song”, this is because he doesn’t know that it was actually because of Iago that he was dismissed from the job of lieutenant.
Iago is seen as a manipulative and evil character, he betrays Othello by telling Brabantio that Desdemona is married to Othello; “you’re robbed… an old black ram is tupping your white ewe”, he uses crude, sexual imagery to make their marriage seem worse than it is to make Brabantio angry because his daughter got married without his consent. He constantly makes racist comments about Othello; by referring to him as “thick-lips” and tries to make him seem like a bad character, because in Shakespearean times it was seen as wrong for a white woman to marry a black man.
Iago tries to convince himself that Othello has had an affair with is wife; “I hate the Moor, And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets He’s done my office. ” Iago is jealous even though he is not completely sure that Othello has had an affair with his wife. He treats Emilia badly he tells her to “be not acknown on’t” he makes her do what he wants and tell her to pretend she does not know anything about Desdemona’s handkerchief. He also makes general bad comments about women; “she give you so much of her lips as of her tongue” he is saying that Emilia talks too much, something which she shouldn’t do.
Iago has a general dislike for women and stabs Emilia when she realises what he has done he also causes Othello to hit Desdemona in public and makes him call her a “whore” to her face. To make Othello jealous he makes out that Desdemona is having an affair but he only hints, “Lie – ” this makes Othello jump to conclusions and finish off the sentences himself; “Lie with her? Lie on her? ” Iago does not try to correct him “With her, on her, what you will” he just agrees with what Othello is saying.
Sometimes when talking to Othello he says something and immediately takes it back to get Othello curious. Othello gave Desdemona a handkerchief which had been passed through his family, Iago tells Emilia to steal it for him and plants it in Cassio’s bedchamber. He tries to wind up Othello by discretely reminding Othello that Desdemona did not have the handkerchief anymore: “But if I give my wife a handkerchief”, he is tormenting him with the thought that Desdemona is not acting truly loyal to Othello, like Emilia would to Iago.
Shakespeare uses asides and soliloquies throughout the play as a dramatic technique. While talking to Othello, Iago says “O, you are well turned now! But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music, As honest as I am” it reminds us of Iago’s evil nature, and shows how he is planning Othello’s destruction. Soliloquies are similar to asides in what they do in the play. They remind us of what Iago is planning and also show us what he thinks about what he has achieved so far.