Iago as director

Iago as director.

I have long wondered about the nature of Iago’s relationship with the other characters in the play and his consequent relationship with the audience. It seems odd that it not the title character who is allowed to reveal his inner thoughts to us as we watch. Indeed, unusually perhaps for a tragedy, we are rarely privy to Othello’s thoughts. Iago, on the other hand is given ample opportunity to address us and to explain every detail of his mind as he develops his plots.

What is the effect of this? As the audience of a tragedy, we are meant to engage with the tragic hero as he reveals enough of their character for us to spot a flaw and to revel in the inevitability of the downfall that will befall him. This play is different. We are given the opportunity to hear the thoughts and desires of the evil catalyst of the downfall. Consequently, the whole play takes on a kind of dramatic irony for the audience as we are impotent to prevent Othello walking blindly into the web woven by Iago.

Iago operates in a sequence of “plays within the play”, in which he stage manages both the audience response and that of the protagonists. Consider these moments:

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