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Analyse How Iago Is Presented in His First Soliloquy

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Contrary to convention, the soliloquies of Iago, the antagonist of Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Othello’, form the backbone of the play’s structure. Shakespeare makes extensive use of soliloquies throughout ‘Othello’ to share the inner thoughts of his characters, to reveal important information to the audience without having said information revealed to the characters on-stage and to establish dramatic irony, a key technique used by Shakespeare in the play.

Iago’s first soliloquy occurs at the end of Act 1, Scene 3 and concludes the first act of ‘Othello’. In order to explore Iago’s presentation in this soliloquy, it is perhaps first important to discuss the structure of Act 1. Although traditionally Shakespeare chooses the to begin and end the first act with the appearance of the titular character or protagonist, in ‘Othello’ Shakespeare chooses to open and conclude Act 1 with Iago; Act 1, scene 1 begins with a discussion of Othello between Iago and Rodrigo and act 1,scene 3 concludes with Iago’s first soliloquy.

In drama, the order of appearance of characters can often be used to judge their importance, as one would expect the audience to be introduced to the most important character, generally the protagonist, immediately in order to familiarise the audience with them and enable them to form opinions on the character. By opening and closing Act 1 with Iago, Shakespeare could be suggesting to the audience that Iago is in fact a more important character than Othello, something furthered by the fact that Iago actually has more lines than Othello.

The parallelism of the act also perhaps mirrors the control Iago plans to execute over Othello to destroy him. The symmetry of act 1 in it beginning and ending with Iago seems to imply that he has greater control over the structure of ‘Othello’ than the eponymous protagonist does!

Through use of parallelism and clever manipulation of structure in Act 1, Shakespeare presents Iago as manipulative and controlling. By presenting Iago in such a light through use of structure and not words, Shakespeare cleverly shows and doesn't tell the audience of Iago’s malice, meaning that the audience develop a ‘gut-feeling’ about the malicious Iago’s character rather than being explicitly directed to feel a certain way about him, something which only goes to enhance the effects of Iago’s presentation upon the audience.

In lines 320-321, Shakespeare presents Iago as highly selfish. In line 320, Iago personifies his supposed ‘friend’ and bank-roller Roderigo as a purse, saying “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse”. This tells the audience that, to Iago, Roderigo is nothing more than an inanimate object, a ‘purse’ in which he stores money. Iago seems to view Roderigo’s money as his own, as signified by the possessive pronoun ‘my’- the audience quickly realises that Iago has gained full control over Roderigo through his futile promise to help him win Desdemona to the point where Roderigo has become a possession of Iago’s, stripped of his own identity.

Iago’s selfishness is further emphasised in the use of three self references at the start of line 321; Iago references himself not one, but three times in three consecutive words “I mine own”. Here, Shakespeare uses a triplet to emphasise Iago’s neurotic self obsession to the audience- he uses three words to reference himself where one would have easily sufficed in order to enhance his own importance to himself. The repetition of the sounds ‘I’ and ‘O’ in this line makes it tricky to say and for the audience to decipher, a technique Shakespeare uses not only to emphasise Iago’s narcissism, but also



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