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Shakespeare's Villains


Chayan Debnath

on 28 October 2012

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Transcript of Shakespeare's Villains

Shakespeare's Villains Who is the character? What makes them a villain? Animal Base? Clothing? Importance in the play? Props? Iago is the villain who is in Shakespeare’s renowned play Othello. The character, at first glance, seems to be a very hateful and villainous. However, Iago does well to hide his true nature from the other characters. Some may suspect him of his villainy but no other character realises his true nature until it is too late, after the damage has been done. Iago is an envious character, who takes great pride in himself and assures himself that he deserves better. To the face of others, he appears helpful and guiding and caring, but to the audience he shows his true side. He lacks a conscience and remorse; the things needed to make him reconsider the acts he commits, with the belief that he is rightful. Iago has a very important role in the play as a villain. He claims to have been unfairly passed over for promotion to the rank of Othello's lieutenant in favour of Michael Cassio. This is when Iago’s villainy starts to take place. His envious characteristics are the main source of his villainy till the end.

His villainous scheme starts as he plots to manipulate Othello into demoting Cassio, and thereafter to bring about the downfall of Othello himself. He has an ally, Roderigo, who supports him in his plans. Roderigo was mistakenly in the belief that after Othello is gone, Iago will help Roderigo earn the affection of Othello's wife, Desdemona. Manipulation is a trait Iago acquires that makes him a villain, his ability to make other look past his villainy and make the wrong decisions. Iago appears helpful to the other characters until they turn their back to him. He looks at them with a glance of superiority and destruction, and shows power over them, even though it may not exist. These are the physical aspects of him which makes him appear as a villain, along with his dark clothing and his bearded, rough appearance.

His villainy continues with his plan to make Othello believe that his wife is having an affair with Cassio, in order to cause his downfall. After which he begins to see his wife as an obstacle and a nuisance so he kills her after she reveals his plans to Othello. He commits this act for his own safety, which further explores Iago’s character and what he is willing to do. Emilia was a stumbling block in front of his path. She served no purpose to him anymore and she can now only hurt his chances of keeping the position given by Othello. Even though he tries to stay safe, Iago is still willing to commit crimes by his own hands, such as murdering his wife and Roderigo. This is proof of his villainy; his ability to commits these acts without remorse or conscience and thinking that they are the right decisions. Iago is responsible for all the distress caused in the play, and is an essential part of the play’s plot. In the play Iago is a soldier who has fought beside Othello for several years, and has become his trusted advisor. However, he still feels that he has been passed over by Cassio. From this instance, Iago starts to take control of the story; he begins to guide the story through the acts he commits.
His villainy has been the ‘fuel’ for the play, without which the play would not have a story to continue.
Iago could be associated with a margay based on the characteristics of how they ‘hunt’. A margay catches its prey by mimicking other animals, to lure out its prey by making them feel safe before devouring them. The animal forces the prey to be at its most vulnerable and make the wrong move before striking. This is the same way Iago carries out his villainous plans. Iago does not mimic anyone; however, he does use deception to lure in Othello, giving Othello the wrong impression of the situation, the same way a margay hunts. He gives Othello a sense of false security whilst both Othello and Desdemona think that Iago is trying to be helpful keeping him on their good side. Iago was highly regarded and was an Upper Class Elizabethan and the clothing he wears would need to reflect this. Based on this I would have the character wear a white shirt, made of silk or satin with a dark doublet made of leather, finishing with ruffs around the wrist. For his lower section, the character would wear black or dark brown breeches. A man or women who wore clothes made of satin, silk or velvet would be immediately recognised as a member of the Elizabethan nobility or upper classes. People of the Lower Classes wore clothing generally made of wool, linen and sheepskin. The clothing they wore was the first indicators of what class the people were in and would set them apart. The white satin or silk shirt would suggest his importance among the people; white being a colour that suggests purity and nobility. The darker coloured breeches and doublet would follow the clothing fashion of that era. The sturdy leather outer layer would give him protection and reveals his wealth; that he can afford such clothes made of leather. Iago does not require any props to be with him throughout the play. Throughout the play, Iago is mainly expressing his confidence in his plan and in himself and how he has been passed over. To do this he does not require any props. He conveys the message, other than his words, through his body language. His body language suggests that he is not worried, which also reinforces his confidence. This is aided by the silent background, which can be considered as a prop. The silence emphasises the message that is being passed on to the audience; it makes us listen and understand his confidence, which is a major aspect of him that is being identified to the audience.

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