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 incorrect to follow his master’ the Moor’, shown by the answer he offers to Roderigo’s statement of:

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


“O sir, material you.”– line 41

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

Iago expands on his opening declaration, notifying us that he is just following Othello for his own advantage, and informs us on his view of there being two types of knaves. The first, follows his master to assist his master, strives and is simple and in fact enjoys his dedicated 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 exact same category as the ‘master’s ass’, as they only receive food and accommodations (‘for nought however provender’), in return for several 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 use others for his own advantage ironically using the cover of an utilized ‘sincere’ servant. It is this word ‘sincere’ that appears often times in the play and is used to suggest different things, primarily credible and honest or basic and quickly tricked. However when used in recommendation to Iago there is often a sense of patronisation or a sign of it meant as an insult to suggest stupidity. When Iago uses the word ‘sincere in line 49 saying:

‘Whip me such sincere knaves.’

He reveals the audience precisely how he sees the understanding of the word ‘honest’ as he utilizes it to describe the silly ‘duteous and knee-crooking knave’. Here Iago makes it clear how he comprehends the significance of the word ‘truthful’ despite the fact that making use of the word is frequent and diverse and obviously deliberately uncertain 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 difficult working and submissive servants, but inwardly they are working for their own agendas. Although these knaves look as though they are compromising a lot for their masters with little evident return, in reality they are utilizing their masters to their advantage much better than their masters are using them. Therefore in paying service to Othello he is in effect paying service to himself.

This gives an impression of selfishness however we need to remember that even if Iago is not a master, does not make him feel that to serve a master is an advantage. Therefore, like individuals who are more fortunate than him and are higher in the social and military rank, he too wants individuals to dedicate 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 circumstances do get out of hand and develop into tragedy.)

The second kind of knaves who are ‘trimmed in forms and visages of duty, yet keep their heart going to on themselves’ (lines 50-51) Iago feels that:

‘ These fellows have some soul’– line 54

This recommends that Iago sees this deceit and pretence in a man as character and qualities to be admired and respected for: in fact the reverse of societies view of guys who lie and plot others’ failure.

Iago has currently presented the style of deceptive appearances, which actions and true ideas or sensations have nothing in common. Therefore no one can judge or analyse another person’s actions without knowing how that person feels, and even with this understanding, one can still not understand or value the character’s motives. These issues are demonstrated in Iago’s following lines:

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

In following him, I follow however myself.

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

But seeming so for my strange end.’ Lines 58-61

Iago’s mysterious declaration ‘Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago’ indicates that the Moor symbolises credibility and all things genuine while Iago means falseness and deceit. For that reason one can not be the other as they are opposites and work antagonistically. For that reason we are faced with the common ‘good versus evil’ presentation, (which later proves wicked to be the winner).

It seems that Iago sees himself and Othello as opposites and for that reason Othello will never have the ability to understand Iago, and for that reason can not comprehend his deceitfulness and outlining against his ‘pals’ and Iago will never be able to understand Othello’s love for Desdemona as a thing of appeal and purity. Hence Iago can just make the disaster take place by manipulating what is great and sowing the seeds of doubt.

Iago comments that he is not seeking ‘love and responsibility’ and so we begin to doubt how Iago will’ thrive by them’ from his ‘peculiar end.’ This last statement suggests that no one will understand Iago’s intentions or the passion which drives his actions because even Iago describes his end as ‘strange’ and for that reason as individuals will not have the ability to see it from Iago’s perspective they will incorrectly assume that he is a psychopath or psychological. The lines:

‘… not for love and task,

But appearing so for my peculiar end’

produce significant stress and suspense, making the audience question what Iago could possibly have in store for them. For that reason, Shakespeare has written this line deliberately uncertain to excite interest in the viewers.

Paradoxically, line 60 consists of:

‘Heaven is my judge’

this is the exact same paradise that does not intervene in any of the unfolding disaster even though Cassio, Desdemona, Othello and even Emilia call to heaven for true blessings and security.

Iago feels that sincerity and sincerity are weaknesses that make you more open to attack and therefore more vulnerable. It is here that a tip of insecurity is spotted in Iago as it seems it remains in his nature to covet those whose character or situation remains in any way remarkable to his own thereby leading to Iago experiencing a sense of hurt benefit. He looks for to destroy anything which by its very superiority threatens his self-love and he is constantly discovering ways in which he feel that Othello and Cassio have actually slighted him.

Hence he can not control this sensation of rejection and it grows on him making him feel insecure and wanting to retaliate on those who make him feel belittled. Likewise, maybe Iago believes that he can not ‘use my heart on my sleeve for draws to peaks at’ as he can not reveal his true soul to anyone since then he will no longer be able to conceal behind a mask or character which what is understood about them is false, which will make Iago feel more safe, once again pointing to Iago feeling insecure.

Iago ends his speech with a paradox:’ I am not what I am’. This is in impact summarising Iago’s speech into stating that what people conceive him to be is not the genuine him, and the genuine him will never be exposed for individuals to comprehend, so people will never ever ‘see’ the real authentic Iago. This of course is the main reason Iago manages to trick Othello and this is likewise a problem for Rodrigo, but at this stage Rodrigo does not detect this point, as he is a bit sluggish to state the least.

It is rather ironical that Iago only reveals his real intentions and strategies to Rodrigo who is the only person too dumb to actually comprehend their complete implications, highlighted by Rodrigo’s random and abstract comment:

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

If he can carry it hence!” Lines 67-68

Next we see Iago at his best: making havoc. Iago plainly delights in his own skill at triggering turmoil and his desire to make another human as dissatisfied and miserable as possible. When he prepares to wake Brabantio, and ‘toxin his delight’, he maximises Brabantio’s embarrassment at the dishonour of it by telling Rodrigo to ‘proclaim him in the street’. Iago appears to get brought away by his desire in planning to tell Brabantio of his misfortune stating ‘pester him with flies’ and ‘incense her kinsmen’.

This naturally is an example of Iago’s two faced nature as to Brabantio he seems to be on his side by notifying 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 likewise Vital appreciation of the poem “Old Ladies’ House”.

Although Iago wants Rodrigo to call out to Brabantio, he can not assist himself contributing to Rodrigo’s weak and polite effort at calling Brabantio with loud and worrying phrases and cry’s of ‘Thieves,’ duplicated 4 times to make Brabantio feel as unpleasant and anxious as possible. It seems that Iago is extracting the scenario and going the round about way of informing Brabantio what has happened, to leave Brabantio in suspense and confusion for as long as possible.

Iago’s energy and excitement is communicated in the rate 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 movement, like the nimble darting of Iago’s mind continuously on the look out for new niches to get in and use to his benefit. The light punctuation helps keep the fasted paced childish interest.

Iago’s speeches have lots of unclear and mysterious expressions, these highlight his double character that is in truth a paradox in itself and often appear to present 2 contrasting and villain characters, although they are both represented through Iago. There appears to be no set sentence length with lots of differed disjointed expressions assisting make up Iago’s speech and present his rush of concepts and force of sensation.

This passage is actually a platform for the ‘plotter’ Iago, to reveal his real feelings on his relationship with Othello and how he plans to use his service to Othello and the social function he is expected to play as a base for his deceit and ruin of other characters. Therefore considerably this is an intimate scene in between the audience and Iago (with Rodrigo, as simply a reason for Iago to speak) where they are invited to see occasions and circumstances from Iago’s perspective.

This subtle plotting and the later loud disruption brought on by Iago to wake Brabantio, is more indicator of how rapidly and easily i.e. how flexible, Iago can be to change to suit the scenario to deceive characters, control trust and ultimately cause a tragedy through his consuming hatred for seemingly all things excellent and stunning.