Othello and Iago are principal fictional characters in William Shakespeare’s literary work, Othello (c. 1601-1604). Othello is the protagonist and is presented as a valiant soldier who eloped with a respected Venetian senator’s daughter, Desdemona. Iago, on the other hand, is the main antagonist, Emilia’s husband, and Desdemona’s attendant. By the virtue of being the protagonist and antagonist in the play Othello, it is only logical that both characters share similarities and differences as shall be seen in the ensuing discussion.
There are points of similarities that exist between Othello and Iago. For instance, both characters are presented as having a weakness for intense passions and desires. For Othello, there is so much love and possessiveness that he feels for Desdemona, to the point that he would rather kill her than let anyone else have her. Iago, on the other hand, has an intense hatred for Othello that he devises a scheme to destroy him; by hatching a plan that would have Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Michael Cassio, his lieutenant. In the same effect, the highest form of emotion that drives Othello’s and Iago’s deeds and the entire plotline to its denouement is jealousy.
At the same time, both Iago and Othello are might military men who are easily identifiable through their strengths. Othello’s might is seen in the episode, Brabantio, where he goes in search of his missing daughter.
Unlike Othello, Iago has a tendency for using base language, particularly, to describe elements of humanity such as sexuality. For example, in an instant, he uses unrefined sexual terms and animal images to undermine Brubantio, when he tells him, “An old black ram is topping your white ewe.” Thus, by using agricultural phrases to refer to mating and sex, Iago undermines the act of sex as an expression of love to present it as a basic action. On the converse, Othello uses gentle, more refined and tender phrases to depict his affections and emotions, so that he distances his feelings from mere physical feelings. For instance, he says, “I love the gentle Desdemona” to explain how he feels about his wife. In this case, Othello gets to represent decency, while Iago, the basest aspects of humanity (Shakespeare, 65).
In another wavelength, the play presents Iago as an individual who is solely motivated by his self-interest, (to the point) that he wants success and increase for himself, alone. This self-interest is profound in Iago’s life so that when he is faced by insinuations that Othello may have committed adultery with his wife, he only sees a chance to get even with Othello. He bypasses the fact that the act in itself is the highest form of betrayal against him. It is true that Othello also has a sense of self-interest. Nevertheless, Othello’s interest in other people’s happiness is portrayed as surpassing his self-occupation. For instance, when confronted with the notion that he had enchanted Desdemona, he acknowledges his willingness to die for the same love, provided that the relationship between himself and Desdemona makes Desdemona happy.
The foregoing clearly shows that the aspect of similarity and differences between Othello and Iago is very important to the author (Shakespeare), such that he uses them to set the plotline rolling. He mixes the similarity in the feeling of envy among the two characters to move towards the play’s climax. When Iago lies to Othello that Desdemona has been engaging in an adulterous fling, Othello out of bitter envy kills her. However, Iago’s envy inspires all his actions. He is jealous of all who have anything he does not have and goes out of his way to kill them. This sets the plotline rolling towards its climax and point of conclusion.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Irvine: Saddleback Publishing Inc., 2003. Print