Iago - Livre Or Die

Critical Focus on
Act 5, Scene 1
Entry point through the form and
choice of speech of characters
All human speech reveals states of mind;
focus on diction, and imagery;]]]
And a character is just as capable of
seducing and misleading an audience as
s/he is of seducing and misleading another
Asides and Soliloquies involve a character
talking to the audience; some sort of
relationship is thus established between
audience and charac
‘Othello is powerless, and Iago the real enemy.’
Discuss the presentation of the character of
Othello in the light of this statement,
and relate your discussion to the theme of
the individual and society more generally.
The interplay between what society expects
and individual freedom;
Prefacing remarks regarding recent
‘Reading Literature’ exam paper
Recall Section B, 2 (a) essay question
Re- Shakespeare delights in human
Careful reading of question?
What sense can be attached to the
playwright “delights”…?
Context? Plot Structure? Dramatically?
Othello examination essay question
Show how the playwright delights
in human inconsistencies
which contribute to
the major themes of the play.
Changeable; contrary;
fluctuating; shifting
inconsonant; inconstant;
unstable; unsteady; unsuitable
Vacillating; variable; varying;
Playwright (Shakespeare) delights
How can I, or anyone tell?
Good test of De Bono style lateral thinking
Who gets the best lines? The best
The most memorable and impacting role?
All of which must be considered in context
E.g. The socio-cultural context of the world of
the play
Interesting ironic & ironising reversals
Who does not like to reverse, turn round or
undermine our anticipations / expectations?
It can be very pleasure giving; evident in this play?
Popular and common cultural stereotypes of Africans
(Venetian expectations of Othello?)
Promiscuous; Polygamous; uncouth; no concept of
love and fidelity; of romantic feelings?
Deficient in standards of cultivated expression
Incapable of self-discipline; easy-going; too relaxed
Re- Iago
No sense of honesty; trustworthiness; loyalty,
fairness; justice?
 Barbaric? Iago, the real barbarian of the play
Ironic contrasts in Iago’s character
 Iago as rough in his speech; acts uncultured;
 Iago as the one who obviously thinks and
speaks a great deal about lust; about women
Iago (in contrast with Othello)
Iago as the one who has no real religious (Christian),
or moral values; who only really cares about himself;
worships himself alone
Iago as the one who cannot be trusted; as the dark,
diabolical prince of darkness; of dishonesty; of
deception; of discrimination, of destruction
Iago as the real black devil; dark savage
The barbarian; one ready to expunge even the good;
the innocent; the well-meaning; the virtuous ;
Roderigo: O damned Iago! O inhuman dog! p223
Noteworthy words of IAGO
‘To gross the clasps of a lascivious Moor’
‘Though I do hate him as I hate hell pains’
‘It is merely a lust of the blood’
‘The Moor is of a free and open nature, //
That thinks men honest
Iago: [from Act 2 Scene 1]
‘Her eye must be fed. And what delight shall
she have to look at the devil? When the blood
is made dull with the act of sport, there should
be, again to inflame it and give satiety a fresh
appetite, loveliness in favour, sympathy in
years, manners and beauties; all of which the
Moor is defective in.’
And yet?
Iago, the intellectual, the philosopher?
Iago, just another ordinary soldier?
Recall and Note: an ancient / an ensign
Thus, he is an officer of the lowest
commissioned rank in the military chain of
No typical soldier is IAGO
Recall Iago expounding on Free Will
in Act 1, Scene 3:
’Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our
are our gardens, to the which our wills are
gardeners….either to have it sterile with
idleness or manured with industry, why the
power and corrigible authority of this lies in our
wills…We have reason to cool our raging
motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts…
‘Delight’ proportionate to the degree
and quantity of human inconsistencies
Shakespeare very greatly, and very
frequently takes immense pleasure in not
only reminding, but in showing his audience
they cannot rely on cultural or sexual
Indeed, the WHITE IAGOs of this world not
only may well be, but more often than not
really are the darkest, most diabolical villains
of all
We can sense Shakespeare’s delight
For IAGO in the play Othello (and his fellow
IAGOs in the real everyday world)
They have turned the act of evil into fine art
They are able to practice being evil with
others thinking and believing they are good
‘Good Iago’; Honest Iago; Brave Iago
‘That one may smile, and smile, and be
villain’ [Echoing famous words in ‘Hamlet’]
Act 5,
Scene 1
Iago’s Malice—The Final Stage
The Tragic Downfall of Othello
Tragedy / Tragic Drama
For the Tragic Hero, there is always a fall
arising from flaw in his character;
Situation changes from well-being to
Tragic hero need not be unusually virtuous or
just; yet potentially, a noble person;
but he should be someone whose
misfortunes are brought about by some error
of judgment on his part
This error of judgment arises from some flaw
in his character; some human weakness;
It is essential that to some extent he
contributes to his own downfall
And then by suffering as a result,
he acquires self-knowledge,
and so purges his faults / wrongdoings
How does Othello fulfill the role of
Tragic Hero? Think critically!
Where does the problem lie in Othello? Flaw?
 Does the high regard with which he is held in
Venice cause him to believe in his own
power and become convinced of his own
 Is he too proud? Too unrealistic?
 Does his preoccupation with military duty and
war render him unfit to conceive of any other
way of life besides militaristic affairs?
Is he incapable of seeing marriage as a
Is he overly credulous?
Is his tragic flaw jealousy?
Is he overly concerned with his reputation?
Is he inherently vindictive and violent?
Note the Atmosphere on stage
The scene is set in darkness
Lodovico: ’Tis heavy night. p221
The action and busy movement of this scene
contrasts with the quiet passivity of previous
‘Willow’ scene i.e. Scene 3, of Act 4
Noise, confusion, rapid movement,
And murder
Begins with conspiratorial whispering; and
ends with a brutal murder
Dramatic purpose of Act 5 Scene 1
To present a scene full of action
To give the audience a last look at Roderigo
To put into action Iago’s plot to have both
Roderigo, and Cassio killed
To keep Othello before the mind of the
audience (appears only briefly in this scene)
To prepare the audience for the downfall of
Iago; indeed, to show his first ever set-back
Dramatic Techniques
Copia Verborum / Copia; also Enumeration
Antithesis; Parallelism
Irony: dramatic irony, when the audience
knows something that one or more than one
of the characters do not;
verbal irony, when someone says something
and means another;
Poetic Language / Poetic Drama
Heightened poetic language
 Patterned sounds to highlight and reinforce
meaning and message;
Compulsive Rhythms
Copia Verborum / Copia
Warriors in Wars of Words
Abundance of words, for verbal fencing;
Use of lengthy speeches, Othello and Iago
Used as a rhetorical device / technique;
Employing a large army of skillfully chosen
and well arranged words to pack a powerful
series of effectively delivered punches or
hammer strikes to drive your point home; to
sink your point into those with seemingly
thick, impenetrable skulls, so that they get
and accept your message, your point of view
Characters’ Diction / Speech Style
Characters’ choice and use of
 Saxon words:
Plain, simple, short, monosyllabic words;
Characters’ choice and use of
 Latinated words:
Formal, complex, long, polysyllabic words
Noticing words that are frequently
repeated; word patterns
Note characters’ choice and use of simple,
short words used quite frequently, and
with increasing dramatic significance?
‘honest’; ‘honesty’; ‘honour’; ‘honourable’;
‘good’; ‘true’; ‘truly’;
‘dishonest’; ‘villain’; ‘villainy’; ‘knave’;
‘slave’; ‘dog’; ‘devil’; ‘gross’
Diction / word choice, and
literary-critical significance
Entry point through word choice / language;
Consider how the choice of these words
reflects on the character using them;
And what they reveal about his or her
attitude to the character spoken about;
Notice there is also an element of irony in
the use of these words;
Characters’ Diction
You should also notice how often characters
refer or appeal to such words as
 ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’; and are concerned about
the ‘soul’;
The frequency of this simple vocabulary makes
it clear how much the play is concerned
 With human values, and divine values
 Dramatic effects;
Scene takes place in darkness made
apparent to audience through hints—
Cassio: O help, ho! Light! A surgeon!
Lodovico: Two or three groan. It is a heavy
Gratiano: Here’s one comes in his shirt, with
light and weapons.
Iago: Kill men i’th’dark? Where be these
bloody thieves?
Enter Iago & Roderigo
Iago to Roderigo:
Here, stand behind this bulk: straight will
he come. // Wear thy good rapier bare, and put
it home, // Quick, quick; fear nothing: I’ll be at
thy elbow. // It makes us or mars us; think on
that, // And fix most firm thy resolution.
Here we see a firm and determined IAGO
Then enters Cassio followed by a flurry of violent
After the wounding of Roderigo and Cassio when all
is increasing confusion in darkness
Othello makes a brief appearance
Comes on stage at a point whereby he becomes
indirectly a party to a treacherous and cowardly
attack on Cassio
Diction? What words critically stand
out in Othello’s praise of Iago?
And Othello on hearing the victim, Cassio,
cry in pain
 Othello remarks:
’Tis he! O brave Iago, honest and just,
That hast such noble sense of thy friend’s
wrong, // Thou TEACHEST me.
Note significance of Othello’s diction
Re Othello, and dramatic effects
Change? (Tragic downfall of Othello)
From noble Moor to base Moor;
Surely nothing shows more clearly the
present debasement of his once honourable
and noble character
Than at this point [in 5.1] when Othello does
become a party to this treacherous and
cowardly attack on Cassio
Note Othello’s diction,
and dramatic effects
And note the critically significant words here:
“brave”, “honest”, “just”, “noble”
Indicating symptoms of a now perverted and
debased mind
Where good values have been transformed
into bad;
Where evil now seems right
And what the audience comes to painfully
realize on hearing Othello say:
Thou teachest me
The shocking, evil, tragic truth
And IRONY? Ironic effects
Othello’s interpretation of character and
event is the source of much irony
His reference to Iago’s honesty and justice is
exploited many times in the play
In the light of what we know of Iago’s part in
this particular enterprise
‘O brave Iago’
is another instance of deception
And thus marks Othello yet again as a victim
of irony
Is Iago really that brave?
We notice Iago lurks in the background
Ordering Roderigo instead to make the
attempt on Cassio’s life
Only when Roderigo fails does Iago step in
After which we next hear Othello say—
‘Strumpet, I come!
Forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are
Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be
[Exit Othello]
Othello regrets what he has set out to do;
He conjures up an image of killing
Desdemona in her bed, but this mental
image of the outspread blood blotted
bedsheets begins to call to his mind the
The bed in his mind is stained with lust,
echoing Desdemona’s infidelities with Cassio
And will be spotted with the blood of lust
Exit Othello
So the Moor leaves the stage with an indication that
Desdemona will be the next to suffer
It is also ironic he should take Iago’s ‘brave’ activity
as an incitement to act against Desdemona
However the impending tragedy is delayed for a
short period of time; (Dramatic Effect?)
Creating further suspense;
As the uproar spreads with the comments made by
Lodovico, and also Gratiano
Iago’s stabbing of Roderigo, and entry of Bianca
Iago the ever ready master of
Iago ever ready to seize every opportunity
Fastens upon Bianca as a possible
scapegoat for what has happened
Thereby reaching a further height of
hypocrisy when as Iago says:
Look you, pale mistress?
Do you perceive the gastness of her eye?
And Iago continues…
Nay, if you stare, we shall hear more anon.
Behold her well; I pray you look upon her.
Do you see, gentlemen? Nay, guiltiness will
Though tongues were out of use.
Rhetorical effectiveness? Convincingness?
 This is villainy supreme…
And re Iago
After Iago cunningly concealed himself while
Roderigo on orders did the dirty work
(Looks and sounds familiar to the audience?)
 Iago then emerges to play up the role of
brave and helpful citizen
 And pretending to be shocked beyond
measure by the villainies of others
 And even winning the admiration of Lodovico
who finds Iago a very valiant fellow
Lodovico on Iago
Gratiano: This is Othello’s ancient, as I take it.
Lodovico: The same indeed,
a very valiant fellow.
To be noted: Iago and ironic humour **
In Iago’s question to Cassio:
 O my lieutenant,
what villains have done this?
Dramatic Effects?
 There is surely a touch of ironic humour here
 Audience members can imagine the
satisfaction the use of the word ‘lieutenant’
must give Iago in this context.
Re- Motivation of Iago’s evil
towards Cassio?
One of the most suggestive (sub-textual)
clues to Iago’s motivation to do evil?
is perhaps to be found in Iago’s
characterization of Cassio at the beginning of
this scene [p219]
Iago cannot tolerate Cassio’s continued
existence because as we note him say:
‘He hath a daily beauty in his life //
That makes me ugly’
The contemplation of beauty, grace,
happiness or nobility,
In Othello, or Cassio or Desdemona
destroys Iago’s peace of mind
He therefore feels compelled to undermine or
eradicate or destroy such virtues
Whenever, wherever in whomever he finds
Significant echoes of crucial events in
earlier scenes in Act 5, Scene 1?
Othello’s few moments at the scene of
Cassio’s injury take the mind of the audience
back to Othello’s intervention—
To what earlier scene in the play?
The Brawl Scene;
Act 2, Scene 2
The brawl that led to Cassio’s dismissal;
Antithesis of earlier later scenes
In that earlier scene Othello was
 A majestic, authoritative figure
Lording it over everybody and everything
around him by virtue of his mere presence
‘Hold, for you lives!’
But now Othello pauses like a thief in the
night, degraded to that of a mere conspirator
We observe Othello’s onstage actions;
(sub-textual implications?)
Othello remains concealed from view while
he relishes Iago’s treacherous attempt on
Cassio’s life
Even the noble, sonorous music of his early
grand speeches is no longer in evidence
His few lines addressed to Cassio referring
to and foretelling Desdemona’s fate:
‘Minion, your dear lies dead’
Are strident and melodramatic
To conclude this segment reechoing of earlier scenes
We observe Emilia declare her outrage upon
hearing Bianca’s claim to be as ‘honest’ as
herself. ‘O fie upon thee, strumpet!’
But audience will recall an earlier scene
when Desdemona made a similar claim but
was also not believed. What scene?
The Brothel Scene
Act 4, Scene 2
Othello: ‘Are you not a strumpet?’ p191
Up to this Act, fortune favoured Iago
 Accidents and coincidences had always
worked in his favour; However—
 Had not anticipated Cassio would be wearing
a coat of mail armour;
Recall Cassio’s words:
 ‘That thrust had been mine enemy indeed, //
But that my coat is better than thou think’st //
I will make proof of thine.’
Furthermore Iago had not anticipated either
that Lodovico and Gratiano
Would come upon the scene when they did
And thereby prevent him being able to be at
Roderigo’s elbow to add his sword
Their untimely entrance prevented him from
being able to kill Cassio
Note Iago’s concluding [ASIDE]
This is the night
That either makes me, or fordoes me quite
Prompting the audience to think back to
Iago’s initial words to Roderigo (now dead) at
the beginning of this scene:
It makes us, or it mars us; think on that,
Antithesis: word against word;
scene against scene; and characters
One word or phrase set against another
Note: Shakespeare thinks antithetically;
It’s the way his sentences over and over find
their shape
Antithetical words and phrases;
Note what words are set against each other;
Earlier scenes and later scenes; earlier
words and later words
And point up their critical significance
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Shakespearean tragedies

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