Iago As An Elusive Character In Shakespeare's Othello

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Iago: elusive or illusive?

The most profound and intriguing characters in Shakespeare’s plays, at least in the tragedies, are the villains. Don John in Much Ado About Nothing has far fewer lines than the other main characters, yet it is his actions that create consequential events the whole play revolves around. But unlike the comedies, the tragic villains (villains of the tragedies) are more than mere blocking forces. They are the manipulators, the inciters of the actual tragedy and therefore much more intense and curiously evasive. They do divulge their inner motivations and convictions to the audience, but their arguments still sound hollow and are unable to win the sympathies of the audience. Most Shakespearean villains share a common
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He is able to control Othello’s imagination to such an extent that the web of lies he weaves around him becomes the truth to Othello. Such is his mastery of language that he is able to adapt it as per the requirements of the situation and the individual that he faces. He presents himself as extremely honest, and everyone believes him. Yet we know that he is not what he says he is from the very beginning – from his conversation with Rodrigo. Karl Zender is his essay The humiliation of Iago expresses Iago’s hold over language and people in this way: “Iago asserts his complete freedom to make any signifier mean anything. Were I the Moor," he says, "I would not be Iago"; "I am not what I am"; "I must show out a flag and sign of love, / which is indeed but sign" (1.1.57, 65, 156-57). In a sense, then, Iago is the antitype of the romantic dream of growth through and beyond language. Where the arc of comedy moves toward an interfusion of self and other beyond the need for verbal mediation, Iago defies language 's mediatory function at its source, by asserting an absolute ability of the human will-of his will-to separate words from their expressive and communicative functions”

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