Thursday, February 23, 2012

Evil in Othello

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Iago, the Evil in Othello

Iago is quite possibly one of the best examples of evil in literature. He is not merely manipulative as other bad guys. Iago also brings the interesting aspect of truthinto it all. He quite literally tells the best lies using mostly the truth. What can we callhim? Whether it be the devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer or Moloch, these words represent the very same idea pure evil. Not the terrible creature from beyond, or anything quite so mundane as that, but the fundamental belief of malignancy in the world. All of these ideas reach a phenomenal peak in Iago. Iago does not have the casual killing persona of a Stalinor Mao, but instead possesses the pure hatred of everything he deems to be good and pure. His very existence is for the destruction of the truly innocent.

From the very beginning of Othello, Iago is in the midst of his scheme to destroyOthello. He speaks with the muddy-mettled rascal, Roderigo. And from the very firstmoment Iago admits to not really being what he seems. He is not what he is. And whatdoes he use as his reasoning for his obvious ill towards Othello. Well, he is sort of mad that Cassio was chosen as a Lieutenant instead of him. It is interesting that Iago feels theneed to justify himself to a pantywaist like Roderigo, who entrusts him with his pursewithout really even knowing him. When he does not belief his daughter to be making thebeast with two backs(I, i, 11), as Iago so gently puts it, Brabantio calls Iago a villain. Instead of denying it, Iago simply replies by saying, You are-a senator.(I, i, 115) Agreat way to avoid reality is to merely pretend it is not there. Then, instead of takingcredit for telling Brabantio, Iago allows Roderigo to remain and bear witness. After all,what is the devil better at than casting false blame.

When Iago is preparing him for his confrontation with Brabantio, Othello asks ifhis soul and parts will represent him well. Iago gives the reply, By Janus, I think so.(I,ii, ) Now this does not really mean all that much unless you consider the fact the Janusis the two-faced Roman god. One side is completely different from the other. To Othellothis means very little coming from a good friend like Iago, but the reader must realize thatit was no coincidence Iago mentions this ancient hypocrite.

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Drown cats and blind puppies.(I, iii, 11) This is only a joke, right!? Obviously Iago is simply trying to add some facetiousness to a tough situation with Roderigo. Takenby itself it really doesn’t prove anything. But, the sheer number of incidents like this makeit very improbable for Iago’s behavior to be coincidental. One of the next things Iago saysis one of the most important line of the play. In soliloquy, Iago admits his real reasons forill by his line, I hate the Moor.(I, iii, 77) This line makes no attempt to justify hisfeelings, since true evil does not need real reasons, just rationalizations. For the first timeIago freely admits that all his evil is based around his simple hatred for Othello’s very existence

The Moor is of free and open nature

That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;

And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose

As asses are.

I have’t! It is engendered! Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.(I, iii, 0-5)

Is any more proof needed to prove that Iago is the devil? Is so, why not let himtell the audience himself? At the end of the second act, Iago is alone with his thoughts fora bit. The most interesting thing about it is that Iago is not talking to himself, but to thevery people the play is being performed for. He first justifies his actions by claiming hisadvice to be true. Of course, it actually is the truth, technically. But the truth is beingperverted. Then he gets to the real point. When evil desires to cause the greatest sins, it first pretends to be righteous, which is exactly what Iago admits to. While Cassio begs Desdemona to help him, it will only make Othello more and more sure that Iago’s pestilence is the truth. Then Iago can turn Desdemona’s virtue into pitch(II, iii, 60), which is really the whole point. Iago not only plans to destroy Othello, but by using the very pure and good part of his life that reaches its apogee in his sweet redemption, Desdemona.

The most terrible aspect about Iago’s character is the realization that no-one elseknows what is going on, except for the audience. He gives us shows just to make us see how manipulative he really is, how much he loves his evil, and that we can do nothing to save the souls of those he has damned. The greatest trick Iago ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist... and like that, he was gone.

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