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Let’s Explore: Iago, Othello’s nemesis

Before we explore the character of Iago, in Othello, let us remind you how you can explore a Shakespearean character in any of our published plays.

If you haven’t tried out our  techniques of using ‘Parts and Cues’ and ‘Highlit Text’ to explore a Shakespeare character, then you’ll find it helpful to read the detailed explanation we give for the character Hamlet (click on Let’s Explore Hamlet).


Iago, Othello’s nemesis:

You can explore any Shakespearean character in a play  published by Players-Shakespeare.com in a similar way. Here we help you explore Iago.


Most of Othello is taken up with the execution of Iago’s plan to persuade Othello to murder Desdemona through jealousy. We’l l explore that in our “Let’s Play” section. However, a question which frequently comes up is why Iago wants to cause Othello’s downfall. This is explored in some detail, in Act One, with Iago giving contradictory explanations, depending on who he is talking to:


  • In A1S1, Iago says to Roderigo that he hates Othello because he has been over-looked for the job of Lieutenant. That speech is worth reading. Here’s a link to Iago’ lines in Parts and Cues format. Scroll down to Iago’s second speech, and start reading (outloud) from ‘Three Great ones of the City…’
  • Staying  with A1S1, we learn more about Iago from a speech further on which starts ‘I follow him to serve my turn upon him.’.  Here’s the same link to Iago’ lines in Parts and Cues format in case you need it.
  • In A1S3, we learn more about how Iago thinks. The scene is mostly about Desdemona marrying Othello, but afterwards, Roderigo (who is in love with Desdemona) says that he will drown himself.  Iago’s response tells us more about how he thinks. Click on Iago’s lines in A1S3 and scroll down to the speech that starts ‘It is merely a Lust of the blood and a permission of the will.’ Read from the next line, starting ‘Drown thyself? Drown Cats and blind Puppies.’ and read (out loud again) until the end of the speech. Once you’ve done that, you can watch the following Video Reading of that speech..
    (If you like this click here to subscribe to our Youtube channel)
  • Still in A1S3, Iago is left alone and speaks even more candidly. You can read his speech out loud by clicking on A1S3   and scroll down to the speech starting ‘Thus do I ever make my Fool my purse’  Iago says that he will use Roderigo as a source of money, and that he hates Othello because he suspects that Othello has cuckolded him with Emilia.
    If you take these speeches together, you may find that Iago is a complex, destructive, character, Both these scenes paint Iago’s character richly, and of course it is enriched further by the scenes in the rest of the play..

Of course, by reading the scenes above, you may well see things differently from what I’ve outlined above, but  you should come to clearer view of what you think about the character of Iago. 🙂


Let’s play!


Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’

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