To what extent do you think is Iago responsible for Othello's undoing?

Essay by HyperionJunior High, 9th gradeA-, June 2004

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Of all Shakespearean tragedies, Othello is perhaps the most painfully exciting and the most terrible. How we interpret this great tragedy is significant: it is not only the focus of the drama, but also the main argument of the text. There are many aspects in which readers must evince their own judgement to decide who should be accounted responsible to the terrible events.

I have't! It is engend'red! Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

With this powerful statement, the first act is brought to a close and Iago is revealed as the mastermind behind the diabolical scheme about to be unraveled. This statement cannot be read as anything but self-confessed villainy. In one of the most enthralling soliloquies of the entire play, Iago unveils the design of his brilliant plan for the downfall of Othello. In this speech, not only does Iago confesses his knavery to the viewers, we are also exposed to the weakness of Othello and Cassio that enabled them to sink so deep into Iago's plot.

The Moor is of a free and open nature

That thinks men honest that but seem to be so

The readers soon comes to realize the reasons for Iago's hate of Othello: the promotion of Cassio instead of himself; the racial prejudice displayed by him; and the rumour that Othello is having an extra-marital relationship with his wife Emilia. These are the driving force behind Iago's jealous scheming, fueling his hatred and desire for revenge.

In Act III, Iago puts his plans into action by poisoning Othello's mind with fabricated details of an alleged affair between Cassio and Desdemona. Iago carefully plans his every move and is able to arouse the curiosity of Othello without impetuosity. Iago constantly holds back what he...