A Complex Growth Of Character Development In The Antagonist Iago Compared To The Protagonist Othello

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Shakespeare’s purpose of his conventions has provoked a complex growth of character development in the antagonist Iago compared to the protagonist Othello within the 1992 play Othello. Othello employs traditional conventions such as the notion of hamartia and its consequence of being the cause of the character’s downfall. As well as the comparison between the two characters soliloquies and their ability to further devise a suspenseful and melodramatic plot. Othello further utilises the convention of external influence, enabling the audience to perceive how it fulfils a significant role in terms of how captivating Iago is compared to the make-up of Othello’s personality. Thus, Shakespeare’s purposeful conventions have led to the conclusion that the antagonist Iago’s manipulative and intellectual character has ultimately depicted a more engaging character than Othello’s.

The Shakespearean tragedy Othello employs traditional conventions to develop the characterization of Othello and Iago. Othello’s conventional fatal flaw of jealousy leading to his ultimate death and lack of character development produces an unengaging and orthodox protagonist. In comparison to the antagonist Iago in which the Shakespearean conventions develop his complex character into a master of manipulation. This comparison is illustrated through the two characters conventional soliloquies. Where Othello’s routinely involve his unravelling state of mind through racial imagery and contradictory over Desdemona, seen through the soliloquies “My wife! my wife! what wife? I have no wife” and “O cursed slave! Whip me, ye devils” demonstrating the tediously expected nature of Othello. Whereas Iago’s engage the audience as he reveals his plan and carefully constructed lies, this is seen through the soliloquy “Whether he kill Cassio, or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, Every way makes my gain.” The characterisation of Iago engaging us more than Othello’s is reinforced by the differentiation between the downfalls of the two characters. As Othello’s downfall is caused by the conventional of his hamartia – jealousy, that grew due to Iago’s implementation of lies. Thus creates an expectational death seen through the rhyming couplet “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” However, Iago’s mistrust and prejudice towards women was the cause of his unconventional downfall. This is identified through Iago’s wife, Emilia, whose speech exposed him to be the villain behind the scenes “Upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie. She false with Cassio!–did you say with Cassio?,” thus intrigues the audience into how Iago will regain control, even as he is revealed as the villain he refuses to acknowledge his ruin. This is highlighted in his denouement, “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know: From this time forth I never will speak word.” Therefore highlights how the conventions of this Shakespearean tragedy have characterised Iago in an intriguing light compared to Othello.

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Through the protagonist and antagonist within in Othello, it is established that the Shakespearean convention of an external influence plays a key role in how captivating the two characters are. Iago’s ability to manipulate his victim’s insecurities by moulding himself into different personas, to control the play, consequently enables him as an intriguingly complex character as he is perceived as an enigma. However, the protagonist Othello allows himself to be deceived by Iago’s consistent lies without second-guessing, just like everyone else who is a pawn in Iago’s plan. Iago’s role of external influence is demonstrated through the rhyming couplet “That either makes me, or fordoes me quite” highlighting how he indulges in control over his fate and others to solely benefit himself, as here he explains his role of fate that he took on the chance of Cassio’s life. Furthermore, Iago’s captivating nature is revealed by his switch in persona to a loyal nobleman who loves Othello, illustrated in the biblical reference “In Venice they do not let God see the pranks they dare not show their husbands. Their best conscience is not to leave’t undone, but keep’t unknown,” here Iago’s true desires are seen by the audience as he plants seeds of doubt over Desdemona’s loyalty in Othello’s mind to gain control over him. Whilst demonstrating how Othello’s character is less engaging as his emotions and thoughts are easy to understand. Iago’s engaging characterisation is also illustrated through his tactics of twisting the truth and feigning innocence so carefully that no one suspects him. This is demonstrated when Emilia says “some eternal villain, some busy and insinuating rogue…have not devised this slander” and Iago’s ironic reply of “Fie, there is no such man; it is impossible.’ Revealing Iago’s white lie of their being no villain who has caused Othello’s nature towards his wife to change for the worse, whilst knowing he is the one causing Othello’s unravelling mental state. Thus Iago’s complex nature and masterful manipulation of controlling the play’s characters through their weaknesses, he further develops an engaging and intellectual character compared to Othello.

Thus the characterisation of Iago is significantly more engaging due to his ability to manipulate and shapeshift into different personas to benefit himself. Whilst Othello’s overall personality and reactions to betrayal are conventional and expectational as he is not a complex character.


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