The folllowing sample essay on Iago’s First Soliloquy discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
In my opinion Iago is a crude character with evil imbedded into his soul – a typical villain in a Shakespearian play. The line “put money in they purse” shows Iago as his manipulative self. I believe his mind is fixed on causing hurt and destruction, fuelled by his jealousy over Othello and his wife. This view is outlined well by the critic Helen Gardener. ‘Malice is motiveless’. This view is shown well in operatic version of Othello, in which Iago states that ‘vile is [his] my tissue’, which just shows that Iago does this to Othello because he is evil, not through jealousy.
In comparison to this the view of Neville Coghill is that Iago has been turned to this evil plot because of the actions of Othello. However I really don’t think this is a feasible argument simply because, Iago continues with his evil plans after Cassio has been sacked and Othello tells Iago he can be ‘his most trusted lieutenant’ so it is absurd to believe that Iago is simply plotting a revenge attack on Othello. This is therefore why Iago’s evil actions are so shocking because he has no real motive. He is clearly jealous of Othello and believes he should be in a better position than he is because of the line, “know my price”.
What Is A Soliloquy
Shakespeare shows Iago at first to have strong feelings of jealousy and bitterness towards Othello. Lines such as ‘his own pride and purposes’ shows how Shakespeare wants us to know how jealous Iago is of Othello, by using insults and sly comments. The reader therefore understands Iago’s dominant emotions of anger and jealousy. Iago is a man who insults those who have done better than him often throughout the play, ‘A Florentine’; with the language used here Shakespeare is clearly conveying to the audience this feeling of jealousy, which is to set the whole story.
There are many literary techniques used in the play to portray this evil image of Iago. In his first speech he uses words of absolute hatred when referring to Othello; he expresses his ‘monstrous’ wish to ‘abuse’ because he has this ‘hate’ inside him. As he says ‘framed to make women false’, Iago’s view of women is shown, also the way he uses Emilia to steal the handkerchief is devious and when he states that he will ‘turn her [Desdemona’s] virtue in pitch’ In Othello’s speech in Act 5 Scene 2 it is clear that Iago’s poison has influenced Othello and almost transformed Othello into a man like Iago. She was foul’.
Othello would never describe a woman like this but Iago’s view of women has influenced him and therefore he is now thinking like Iago. His nature is shown through the pace at which he talks; he speaks in continuous prose which is fast paced, just like Iago. The irony over Cassio being ‘a proper man’ shows the audience what a crude character he is and also goes some way to show how he treats people he doesn’t like. The simile ‘is as luscious as locusts’ I believe is a summary of Iago, he is a great person at first until you realise what he is made up of; evil, hatred and jealousy.
Rhetorical questions are also used to create make Roderigo think, which undermines him and makes him look inadequate, making Iago look like the more dominant male. ‘Drown thyself? ‘ This is a very strong line which later turns out to be reality, Iago is suggesting that he would never want Roderigo to harm himself, but in Act 5, scene 1 it is through Iago’s vicious plans that Roderigo does get hurt, this is an example of a parallel in this play.
An excellent example of Iago’s viciousness is in The Nunn version of Othello, where Iago is overpowering and stands above everyone else, his tone of voice creates a dark and evil mood and the audience can see his viciousness through e mood felt. So this use of emotive language causes the audience to feel sympathetic towards Roderigo who is constantly being victimised throughout the play. Also literary techniques are used to try and persuade people too, such as the power of three. Put money in thy purse” is repeated three times, stressing its importance, almost persuading the reader to believe him.
This is also an example of dramatic irony as the audience know what kind of a man Iago is by him secretive motives, such as the line, “monstrous birth to the world’s light”. Suggesting he wants to complete his ideas and make them work. The shadow on Iago in Otello shows this evil living in Iago and this monster inside him is portrayed with the use of lighting. Similar to that of the sketch by Thomas Stothard – The meeting of Othello and Desdemona, c. 799, where Iago was drawn as a dark sinister figure, with light on half of his face, once again an example of Iago being evil. If I were to stage Iago’s first soliloquy he would be sat at a dark desk, starring at the ground, symbolising hell and have the lighting so that a dark shadow was formed across half of his face. I would have him dressed in his military uniform just to show the contrast between a true, genuine soldier such as Othello and Iago who is an evil, plotting man.
There would be nothing else on stage to create an effect of isolationism, to show that no-one else is near this level of sinister thoughts. Iago’s speech suggests two different things in my opinion; when he is talking to other people he is very manipulative and persuasive in getting what he wants. To do this he uses emotive language and rhetorical questions such as, “Drown Thyself? ” This is a technique used to persuade and encourage a person to think and agree with you, which shows quite a sly manner.
However when he is on his own he shows a deeply concentrating side, a person who is thinking about their deepest darkest thoughts. With words such as “hell” and “monstrous” and “hate” suggests very strong feelings of anger and in my opinion shows evil. These show how he is questioning himself and his motives, but he I believe is questioning himself to assure himself he is powerful enough to do such things. I would incorporate this into my interpretation; I would have Iago shaking though as he sits, suggesting that he has gone slightly mad with jealousy.
Such as in the Miller version, where Iago was twitching and couldn’t sit still – this showed clearly the strength of his evil inner thoughts. I believe Burge tried to show the audience Iago’s speech as a symbol of power. Burge shows Iago as overpowering as he has a very loud tone of voice, he is very persuasive. The camera angle used is close up on him carefully showing his facial expressions and his sly smile which is almost permanently on his face which shows the character of Iago exceptionally well.
However there is this shift of behaviour between when he is on his own and when he is with others, because as soon as he is on his own, his movements become twitchier, almost like he doesn’t like the depth at which he is thinking at. He argues with himself as well which suggests he doesn’t like what he is doing, “I have’t” this is him just justifying himself to himself! The close camera angle shows the real hatred in his eyes when he says, “I hate the moor” which really emphasises this idea of hatred and the balance of power.
Finally there is a sense of dramatic irony because as the audience we know something is going to go wrong so by him thinking about his motives this is a sense of dramatic irony. “Cassio’s a proper man” This is ironic as the audience know what Iago thinks of Cassio, however he says this in a way that implies that it is going to be difficult to harm the reputation of Cassio, almost as if Cassio presents a problem. The strength of this interpretation is that it shows that real hatred that Iago possesses for Othello and with those facial expressions this is really implicit.
But there is this sense of him becoming almost scarred of himself which I don’t think can be believed as he is so definite in his plans and never doubts himself until the end where ‘from this time forth I never will speak a word’. Nunn shows Iago to be overpowering again by giving him a brawn voice. But when he is in his soliloquy he is fidgeting and breathing heavily, to add to this atmosphere how he sits at the table causes a shadow to fall over his face emphasises the idea of evil vs. reality. His true thoughts are so strong he is unable to sit still and this difference is shown clearly through the use of movement.
This use of separation in the soliloquy is a dramatic technique to give the interpretation to the reader of the true motives of Iago and the way he thinks. This was very effectively done by the twitching during his soliloquy. This interpretation was very effective because of the power of his thoughts which I felt really added to the character of Iago. A Marxist critic may argue that as he cannot sit still his inner thoughts and emotions are being shown through is physical actions, which is clearly represented in Nunn’s version.
In Act 2, scene 3 I would stage Iago’s second speech with him standing centre stage, jus as if he was reading a scroll about what his plans were to an audience. The line ‘I play the villain? ‘ I would have Iago looking directly at the audience to create tension an atmosphere within the audience. I would have Iago look up to the heavens, just as Othello does in the Nunn version when making his speech to the senators, when Iago says ‘free’ and ‘honest’ to emphasis the idea that Iago believes he is equal to a god.
Then finally to emphasis the irony of Iago apparently being passionate for his cause I would have him shout to show he was plotting when he says ‘I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear’ and ‘that shall enmesh them all. ‘ These will emphasis Iago’s anger towards Othello and also show the audience his plans. In this speech it is the first time his plans involve others and are well thought out, which is why I would direct it in this way. In contrast to my view in Otello Iago is trapped in a fortress, possibly trapped in evil and he pulls on a bull ring on a door, this represents Othello being led like a bull.
His low voice and shadows shows how evil this character is. There are signs of religion in this version, which were not present in the play because in Elizabethan times because religion was not allowed in theatre but now is. He is shown as a true creature of evil with traits of insanity. I think the weakness in this version is that Iago is too involved with religion and his belief in women, that being that women are a mans’ property and they can do what they wish with them, is not portrayed enough.
Women in Othello are portrayed as ‘fragmented notions’ of what they really are. Iago’s false portrayal of Desdemona comes closest to crumbling when confronted by her plain truth’ – Evelyn Gajowski In conclusion it is clear to say that Iago as a character influences other characters in the play and that his actions are repeated throughout the play. From what is written by Shakespeare many different interpretations can be taken which all lead to different meanings for the audience. Many different interpretations have evolved due to different contexts being intertwined through time. Iago in my opinion is an evil, plotting but influential man.