In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, Iago plays the evil villain whom everyone deems trustworthy and an honorable man. Throughout the play Iago is guilty for the deaths of many characters including Desdemona, Roderigo, and even his own devoted wife. He is motivated by mostly his wicked ways and enjoyment of seeing others in a distraught state of mind. Iago constantly deceives others by using his highly respected reputation for malicious purposes. He is successful in his ability to manipulate the minds of other characters in order to benefit himself making him a powerful and strong character. Some people may classify Iago as pure evil, but due to the traits he possesses throughout the play psychiatrists would diagnose him with a personality disorder. Evil is defined as someone who is cruel or wicked, but Iago’s intentions are far more malicious than just that, Iago seeks pleasure in ruining the lives of other. Iago’s wicked ways consist of how he is controlling, jealous, and a misogynist. Although, according to HealthyPlace it states, indication some signs of a sociopath include “Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another” (Peterson-Sociopath Definition). Iago shows signs of being a sociopath by him being untrustworthy, manipulative, and showing a lack of emotion. Nobody knows Iago’s past history, but from what he reveals about himself to the readers one could only think he did not have the best childhood growing up. Iago is someone who controls people to make himself look better, but once they have no use to him, then Iago betrays them by exterminating them. Through Iago’s well thought out words and actions he is deceiving to many. One could even argue that Iago deceives himself. Through close analysis of Iago’s character traits, his persistency and persuasiveness are key factors in acknowledging his disorder.
Iago is an envious character who is jealous of anyone who is better than him or has what he wants. Othello, a general in the military, appoints Cassio as lieutenant. Iago longed for the position of lieutenant and feels as if he deserved it over Cassio due to his military background. Iago and Othello both fought together on the battlefield making Iago feel as if he is worthy of the position. This makes one question if Iago went through a traumatic experience while being in the military or if his evil traits were never apparent due to Iago having the power to take someone’s life during battle. On the other hand, Cassio has no knowledge of the military except for what he reads in the books making Iago irate when he heard that Cassio was appointed to the position. Iago believes that Cassio will be of no use to the military as a lieutenant since he is a numbers guy with no military experience. In all reality Iago really wants Othello’s position as general. For someone who loves to manipulate the minds of others being a general would give him the advantage of total control. To a sociopath, people are puppets to string along and manipulate. In their eyes they see the world as a circus, and the sociopath is the ringmaster (Peterson). He has the ability to manipulate and control whoever he wants and make them do whatever he wants whenever he chooses. To Iago life is just a game that he plays for his own amusement and personal benefits. If Iago was to gain a higher position like lieutenant or general, it would give others a better image of him to boast his huge ego. Iago is all about appearance. He wants people to think highly of him in order to obtain a good reputation. Iago is able to manipulate others to commit acts that would benefit him and essentially get him closer to his goals.
Iago creates a plan to remove Cassio from the position of lieutenant so that he can become Othello’s close friend and hopefully be appointed lieutenant. In act II scene III, Iago convinces Roderigo that Desdemona is over Othello and now has moved on to Cassio. Since Iago knows that Roderigo was in love with Desdemona in the past and would do whatever he could to have her as his own, it was easy for Iago to convince Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio to lessen the competition for Desdemona. Iago then manipulates Cassio by getting him drunk in order to stir up a fight. Cassio, who is truly devoted to Othello, would never become intoxicated while on duty knowing he is incapable of handling his alcohol. Iago is well aware of Cassio’s low tolerance for alcohol, so he convinces him to get drunk knowing Cassio will commit an act that will disgrace him. Iago sets Cassio up into getting into a brawl with Roderigo which leads to Cassio losing his place as lieutenant. Iago is not only too intelligent for his own good, but as one can see he is also an expert judge of character. This gives him a great advantage of getting his way. If Iago cannot have the position of lieutenant, then no one else is worthy enough.
In his interactions with Othello and even his own wife, Iago is a fraud. Iago portrays himself as a trustworthy, loving, and a caring person. To one’s face Iago appears as the greatest friend one could ever have, but once that person leaves, Iago tears that person’s self-esteem down in seconds. Iago acts as Othello’s best friend, but in all reality, Iago does not care about Othello at all. Iago hates Othello because he believes Othello has slept with his wife. Iago is also jealous of how highly people think about Othello. Iago uses his intelligent to destroy Othello by getting under his skin. Iago thinks of a master plan that he knows will devastate Othello. In order to ruin Othello’s reputation and sabotage his marriage Iago creates a story of Desdemona, Othello’s wife, sleeping with Cassio. Iago fabricates a story about Cassio talking about Desdemona in his sleep knowing that the easiest way to control the mind of Othello is by making him jealous. Emilia, Iago’s wife is not only in love with Cassio, but is also very fond of Desdemona, so in order to prove such an act Iago manipulates his wife to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief.
In return for stealing the handkerchief Iago gives his wife meaningless sex. Iago praises Emilia by giving her hook-up sex. There was no connection or passion involved. Emilia’s intentions were to make love, but Iago’s intentions were to just keep Emilia content in thinking that she actually means a great deal to him. The way he messes with Emilia’s head and emotions shows the readers how Iago is not in love with his wife due to the fact that he actually despises women. His attitude is very sexist towards women. According to HealthyPlace it states, “someone who is a sociopath is superficial and incapable of deep, meaningful relationships and connections. It might seem at first that this person is very attached and caring, but that’s just an act. A sociopath is antisocial; he is capable of lies and deception in order to get his way, but he cares nothing about forming real friendships and partnerships” (Peterson-Sociopath Definition). By making up false accusations, Iago drives Othello over the edge making him no longer an eloquent speaker. Othello kills his own wife out of pure rage due to Iago falsely accusing her of infidelity. A crime has been committed because of Iago’s lies and untrustworthiness. One could infer that since Othello did not appoint Iago as lieutenant that he wants Othello to feel the same betrayal and hurt as he did.
Othello and Iago have known each other for a while since they fought together in battle. Othello and Iago have a history together making Othello well aware of Iago’s capability to be lieutenant. Since Iago has been so loyal to Othello he believes he is entitled to the position of lieutenant. A sociopath possesses the ability to lie without difficulty which is why it was so easy for Iago to make up the story about Desdemona. They are considered pathological liars and eventually start to believe their own lies which makes them appear convincing to others. Iago’s stories are so compelling that people believe him due to how well-spoken he is. Iago can tell a lie with such ease that it is so effortless for him to convince others. According to HealthyPlace it states, “A sign of a sociopath is the ability to maintain eye contact. He does so even while lying. An underhanded trait of a sociopath is the ability to control people through his presence and communication style. He makes eye contact, smiles sincerely and confidently” (Peterson). Through these signs and Iago’s carefully thought out actions people put their trust in Iago.
Trust is not easily given; it has to be earned. Trust is a powerful tool. Once one gains the trust of another, then one becomes more open and willing to take Iago for his word. People put their trust in Iago and rely upon him; in return he betrays them. Iago abuses and takes advantage of the trust a person has for him. He becomes so skillful at taking advantage of people’s trust that he manages to gain more power, keep his honorable reputation, and assist him in the completion of his selfish goals. Iago gets into the minds of others in order to corrupt their thoughts and state of mind, by putting ideas and scenarios in their head trying to inflict pain within them. Iago shows no remorse for the acts he commits. According to HealthyPlace “This allows a sociopath to move through life freely, doing what profits and amuses him…. feeling nothing about the destruction he leaves behind, he sets out to create a new one” (Peterson-Sociopath Definition). Nobody pieces together that “honest Iago” is actually a destroyer. He destroys the lives of many; all their hopes and dreams become shattered within a matter of moments. Iago breaks down one’s self-esteem and makes that individual vulnerable. One becomes helpless against Iago’s vengeful ways. Iago is self-centered, only cares about himself getting to the top, but does not care about who he has to bring down or what he has to do in order to get there.
Iago does not care about anyone, but himself. He has no desire to treat others as actual human beings. All that matter to Iago is his reputation. Iago is very self-centered and power driven. Iago will go through great lengths to ruin the lives of many innocent victims around him in order to gain advancements within his set goals. Iago is determined to have absolute power and uses his intelligence to construct a master plan that will give him just that. Iago does not show his true emotion when talking to others or creating a plan to ruin the lives of people who put their trust in him. According to HealthyPlace it states, “a sociopath is someone who completely lacks empathy. He simply can’t take the perspective of others or understand (or care) how someone else feels. When a sociopath is hurtful, he feels no remorse. If it’s good for him, he doesn’t care who’s hurt in the process. A sociopath has no conscience” (Peterson). This is why it is so easy for Iago to befriend someone who he can use to benefit himself. For instance, Iago portrays himself as Roderigo’s friend when he tells him that Othello and Desdemona had eloped. Knowing how in love Roderigo is with Desdemona he knew that this would anger Roderigo and that it would be easy to convince Roderigo to awaken Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, in hopes of an altercation. As the play goes on the readers are able to see how much of an instigator Iago is since he is responsible for many deaths throughout the play. Iago’s evil nature becomes prominent once many innocent lives are taken and his flaws become known to the readers.
Throughout the play Iago tries to appear as this flawless well put together character. Iago is a pathological liar who gets pleasure from inflicting pain on the people who he declares are friends of his. Iago lies in order to get what he wants and he even lies for the satisfaction of knowing that he hurt other people. Iago is full of vengeance. He obsesses over the fact that Cassio got the position as lieutenant over him and seeks revenge on both Cassio and Othello for the poorly made decision. He also seeks revenge on Othello for supposedly sleeping with his wife but does not give the audience any proof of it being a factual event. Iago is very self-absorbed. He believes he should have been destined for the position as lieutenant because of his military background and loyalty to Othello. Iago becomes over confident in his skills and start underestimating other characters within the play. He is very selfish when it comes to his ability to manipulate people to get what he wants. Iago uses other characters to get them to do his dirty work and once they are no longer any use to him, he exterminates them for knowing too much. Lastly, Iago is very jealous of others who appear better than him. He is jealous of Othello for being a general and having such high authority over Venice.
Iago is also jealous of Othello for his highly respected reputation. One’s appearance and influence mean a great deal to Iago which is why he portrays himself as such an honorable man Iago maintains his reputation for being honest by outwitting the other characters. Iago is able to cover his tracks and get other characters to do the dirty work for him making him appear as innocent. Iago tells whoever he is talking to what they want to hear in order to deceive them. By telling someone exactly what they want to hear it makes it easier to believe them. Iago uses his intelligence to make up accusation about characters and is able to come up with a plan to make his accusations look factual. For instance, when Iago told Othello that Desdemona was cheating on him with Cassio, Iago was able to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief and plant it in Cassio’s house making it seem as if Desdemona sneaks over there without the knowledge of Othello. Iago also keeps up his reputation by ruining the lives of others without anyone knowing. Iago instigates other characters in order to stir up an altercation. He over exaggerates the situation causing two characters to feud with one another. Since the character’s minds are so distracted with false information they start acting out of character. Once people see how they are acting their reputation gets tarnished making Iago seem like the good guy who was just trying to bring peace to the situation.
Throughout the play readers get to see who Iago truly is and not who he pretends to be. Iago is full of hate and lacks any emotions. People could wonder what Iago’s life was like when he was younger. Many could infer that Iago was abused either physically or emotionally. One could only wonder how someone could be so purely evil. He is driven mostly by his wicked ways and satisfaction of knowing that he just ruined a person’s life. People deemed Iago as honest and honorable, but in return he betrays them by using their good nature for malicious purposes. Throughout the play he gains power over others through his ability to manipulate those around him in order to benefit himself making him a successful character. Iago is more than just pure evil. His intentions are far more malicious than the average villain. Iago seeks pleasure in ruining the lives of other by his need to control others around him. Iago shows signs of being a sociopath throughout the play by him being disloyal to other characters, manipulating their minds, and showing a lack of emotions or remorse. Iago is someone who has to be in control of everything going around him. He deceives people into thinking he is this flawless person who is noble and truthful in order to make himself look better. Through Iago’s well thought out words and actions he is able to outwit many characters. His intelligence and cleverness are what makes him such a unique character. His ability to turn any situation around in order to benefit him is remarkable. Through close analysis of Iago’s character traits, psychiatrists would diagnose him as being a sociopath. Iago puts on a front to the other characters, but underneath it all he is twisted character that is a threat to anyone who comes in contact with him.
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