A Critical appreciation of Othello Act 1 Scene 1 line 41 – line 82, commenting upon Shakespeare’s portrayal of his characters

The passage, act 1 scene 1, lines 41 to 82, open with a long speech from Iago. Currently, from the beginning we see that he feels it is wrong to follow his master’ the Moor’, shown by the response he gives to Roderigo’s declaration of:

“I would not follow him then”– line 40,


“O sir, content you.”– line 41

It is as if it were a discontenting idea to believe that Iago actually really wished to follow his master of his own accord.

Iago broadens on his opening declaration, informing us that he is just following Othello for his own advantage, and notifies us on his view of there being 2 types of knaves. The first, follows his master to assist his master, strives and is humble and actually enjoys his devoted service to his master;

‘Numerous a duteous and knee-crooking knave,

That doting on his own obsequious bondage’ line 45-46

But for all their effort Iago feels that they get nothing back in return and in addition will be looked down upon and be seen in the same classification as the ‘master’s ass’, as they only receive food and accommodations (‘for nought however provender’), in return for many years of devoted service only to be dismissed without a reservation.

This is not for Iago, he will not be used by others, however in turn wishes to utilize others for his own benefit ironically using the cover of a used ‘sincere’ servant. It is this word ‘sincere’ that appears many times in the play and is utilized to indicate different things, primarily credible and sincere or easy and quickly deceived. But when used in reference to Iago there is typically a sense of patronisation or an indicator of it meant as an insult to suggest stupidity. When Iago utilizes the word ‘honest in line 49 stating:

‘Whip me such truthful knaves.’

He reveals the audience exactly how he sees the understanding of the word ‘sincere’ as he utilizes it to explain the foolish ‘duteous and knee-crooking knave’. Here Iago makes it clear how he comprehends the significance of the word ‘truthful’ although making use of the word is frequent and diverse and naturally deliberately unclear in other recommendations in ‘Othello’.

Iago now moves onto the 2nd type of knave, which he associates himself with: these knaves outwardly produce the appearance of hard working and submissive servants, but inwardly they are working for their own programs. Although these knaves look as though they are compromising a lot for their masters with little apparent return, in truth they are using their masters to their benefit much better than their masters are utilizing them. For that reason in paying service to Othello he is in impact paying service to himself.

This gives an impression of selfishness but we must bear in mind that even if Iago is not a master, does not make him feel that to serve a master is a privilege. Therefore, like individuals who are more fortunate than him and are greater in the social and military rank, he too desires people to commit their lives to him. As he can’t have this, it is just natural that he would want to get something out of this ‘relationship’, (though in the end scenarios do leave hand and turn into tragedy.)

The 2nd kind of knaves who are ‘trimmed in forms and visages of task, yet keep their heart attending on themselves’ (lines 50-51) Iago feels that:

‘ These fellows have some soul’– line 54

This suggests that Iago sees this deceit and pretence in a male as character and qualities to be admired and appreciated for: in truth the reverse of societies view of men who lie and plot others’ failure.

Iago has currently presented the theme of deceptive looks, which actions and true thoughts or sensations have nothing in common. Therefore nobody can evaluate or evaluate another person’s actions without knowing how that individual feels, and even with this understanding, one can still not understand or value the character’s motives. These concerns are demonstrated in Iago’s following lines:

‘Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago;

In following him, I follow however myself.

Paradise is my judge, not I for love and task,

However appearing so for my strange end.’ Lines 58-61

Iago’s mystical declaration ‘Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago’ suggests that the Moor symbolises credibility and all things authentic while Iago stands for falseness and deceit. For that reason one can not be the other as they are revers and work antagonistically. For that reason we are faced with the common ‘excellent against evil’ discussion, (which later on shows evil to be the winner).

It seems that Iago sees himself and Othello as opposites and for that reason Othello will never ever have the ability to understand Iago, and therefore can not understand his deceitfulness and outlining against his ‘friends’ and Iago will never have the ability to comprehend Othello’s love for Desdemona as a thing of beauty and pureness. Thus Iago can just make the tragedy happen by controling what is good and sowing the seeds of doubt.

Iago comments that he is not looking for ‘love and responsibility’ therefore we begin to wonder at how Iago will’ thrive by them’ from his ‘strange end.’ This last declaration suggests that nobody will comprehend Iago’s motives or the passion which drives his actions because even Iago describes his end as ‘peculiar’ and for that reason as individuals will not be able to see it from Iago’s point of view they will incorrectly presume that he is a psychopath or psychological. The lines:

‘… not for love and task,

But appearing so for my peculiar end’

produce remarkable stress and thriller, making the audience wonder what Iago could potentially have in shop for them. For that reason, Shakespeare has actually written this line intentionally uncertain to excite curiosity in the audiences.

Paradoxically, line 60 includes:

‘Paradise is my judge’

this is the very same paradise that does not intervene in any of the unfolding tragedy although Cassio, Desdemona, Othello and even Emilia call to paradise for blessings and security.

Iago feels that sincerity and genuineness are weak points that make you more open to attack and therefore more susceptible. It is here that a tip of insecurity is identified in Iago as it seems it is in his nature to envy those whose character or scenario remains in any way remarkable to his own therefore causing Iago experiencing a sense of injured benefit. He seeks to ruin anything which by its very supremacy threatens his self-love and he is always finding methods which he feel that Othello and Cassio have actually slighted him.

Therefore he can not manage this sensation of rejection and it grows on him making him feel insecure and wishing to retaliate on those who make him feel belittled. Likewise, perhaps Iago thinks that he can not ‘use my heart on my sleeve for draws to peaks at’ as he can not expose his real soul to anyone due to the fact that then he will no longer have the ability to hide behind a mask or character which what is understood about them is false, which will make Iago feel more safe, again indicating Iago feeling insecure.

Iago ends his speech with a paradox:’ I am not what I am’. This is in effect summing up Iago’s speech into saying that what people develop him to be is not the real him, and the real him will never ever be revealed for individuals to understand, so people will never ‘see’ the real authentic Iago. This obviously is the primary reason Iago handles to trick Othello and this is likewise an issue for Rodrigo, however at this phase Rodrigo does not pick up on this point, as he is a bit slow to state the least.

It is rather ironical that Iago just reveals his true intents and plans to Rodrigo who is the only person too foolish to actually understand their complete ramifications, highlighted by Rodrigo’s random and abstract comment:

“What a complete fortune does the thick-lips owe,

If he can bring it therefore!” Lines 67-68

Next we see Iago at his best: making havoc. Iago clearly enjoys his own ability at causing turmoil and his desire to make another human as dissatisfied and miserable as possible. When he plans to wake Brabantio, and ‘poison his pleasure’, he maximises Brabantio’s humiliation at the dishonour of it by telling Rodrigo to ‘declare him in the street’. Iago appears to get carried away by his lust in planning to tell Brabantio of his misfortune stating ‘afflict him with flies’ and ‘incense her kinsmen’.

This of course is an example of Iago’s two dealt with nature as to Brabantio he appears to be on his side by informing Brabantio of his daughter’s secret liaison with Othello, yet in the next scene, Iago is seen with Othello serving as the faithful manservant. Read also Critical gratitude of the poem “Old Ladies’ House”.

Despite the fact that Iago wants Rodrigo to call out to Brabantio, he can not help himself contributing to Rodrigo’s feeble and respectful effort at calling Brabantio with loud and alarming phrases and cry’s of ‘Thieves,’ repeated four times to make Brabantio feel as unpleasant and anxious as possible. It appears that Iago is drawing out the scenario and going the round about way of telling Brabantio what has taken place, to leave Brabantio in thriller and confusion for as long as possible.

Iago’s energy and excitement is conveyed in the pace and thrust of Iago’s poetry or prose. In Iago’s soliloquy-like speech (lines 41- 66) poetic images and long words do not slow the quick motion, like the agile darting of Iago’s mind constantly on the watch out for brand-new niches to get in and use to his advantage. The light punctuation helps keep the fasted paced childish enthusiasm.

Iago’s speeches have lots of uncertain and mysterious expressions, these emphasize his double character that is in reality a paradox in itself and typically appear to present two contrasting and antagonist characters, despite the fact that they are both represented through Iago. There appears to be no fixed sentence length with lots of varied disjointed phrases helping comprise Iago’s speech and present his rush of concepts and force of feeling.

This passage is really a platform for the ‘plotter’ Iago, to reveal his real feelings on his relationship with Othello and how he means to use his service to Othello and the social role he is expected to play as a base for his deceit and ruin of other characters. Therefore dramatically this is an intimate scene between the audience and Iago (with Rodrigo, as merely an excuse for Iago to speak) where they are invited to see occasions and scenarios from Iago’s perspective.

This low-key plotting and the later loud disruption triggered by Iago to wake Brabantio, is additional indication of how quickly and quickly i.e. how flexible, Iago can be to change to suit the scenario to trick characters, control trust and eventually cause a disaster through his consuming hatred for apparently all things great and lovely.

You Might Also Like