A Potent Antagonist

I’m a little busy this weekend with preparing my final English portfolio and studying for finals, but I wanted to share a super quick segment of an English assignment analyzing Othello that I was pretty proud of.  Enjoy the footnotes below, too!

Unlike many stories, Othello does not sugarcoat its antagonist.  Shakespeare provides no heartbreaking backstory, allows no pity to be formed, and does not portray Iago as the misunderstood “bad guy”.  When Iago says, “Hell and night/Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light,” Iago is acknowledging that his plans are evil, and yet he still intends to fulfill them anyway (Shakespeare 55).  Unlike many fictional villains, Iago has a clear perception of what is right and wrong, but he simply does not care.  As a result, Shakespeare makes Iago heartless and nearly impossible to relate to.  And yet, despite all of these inhuman traits, Iago falls victim to the same force that he harvests in his victims—jealousy.  Iago’s jealousy of Cassio and Othello ultimately leads to his downfall, making this super-villain as human as the rest of us.  The character of Iago gives the haunting suggestion that guiltless cruelty and human qualities can go hand in hand.


  1. The assignment for this “developed paragraph” was simply “discuss Iago’s effectiveness as a character and presentation as a villain.”  I was at first baffled by the vagueness of this, but realized that an open prompt about Iago was the best sort of prompt.
  2. I usually don’t spend too much time on developed paragraphs for school but this one took me most of the night and I resubmitted it multiple times
  3. Fun fact: Not too long ago one of my favorite actresses, Natalie Dormer, said that she would enjoy playing the role of “female Iago.”  She clearly understands herself very well.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to comment!




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