From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search


In the Motivations section, it says that he might be jealous of Emilia and Desdemona. Why would he be jealous of them? SolidNatrix 13:15, 9 April 2007 (UTC)

"Best Friend?"[edit]

I'm not a Shakespeare expert, but is "Othello's best friend" factually based? It sure doesn't seems so from the text I have.

I agree. I do not see that Iago is "second in friendship" to Othello. It is an army situation. Iago is Othello's Ancient, not friend. --Wikiadam 08:45, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't know. He's certainly Othello's closest confidant, which to me seems to imply friendship. 19:16, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Most lines?[edit]

Is that really true about the most lines for a "non-title" character in a Shakespeare play? What about Julius Caesar (play)? Caesar himself had very few lines, as I recall, and Brutus and Mark Antony were the stars. Does Iago have more lines than Brutus and Antony? --UniAce

Iago is roughly the third longest Shakespeare role (see here) at 1097 lines. Brutus has 701; Marc Antony 766. - Nunh-huh 22:22, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Iago's motivations[edit]

Hi im studying Othello for GCSE and i was wondering if anyone could offer any insights as to what Iago's motivations are, in a sense what makes him tick. I will be very greatful.-- 20:13, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Just read the darn first scene, it tells all you need to... I wonder how come so many people wonder as to motives when it's one of the first things the playgoer or reader is exposed to, and he says it himself. If you don't get it yourself, I've spelled it out in the main article too... assuming it does not get edited off. --Svartalf 00:35, 19 July 2006 (UTC)

You needn't be that condescending. For centuries critics (Coleridge, Bradley) and adapters (Verdi) have found Iago's excuse unconvincing and suggested other, hidden motives. Numerous theoriess are quoted on this page.CharlesTheBold (talk) 22:28, 28 April 2010 (UTC)

Since several critics have suggested that Iago was motivated by his latent homosexuality, should that also be added to the list? Pyon 10:51, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Iago is jealous of othello because the play is named after othello and not himself. Hey, it's a possibility.

The whole Iago being jealous of Othello because of the play title... now that's just dumb.

The article seems to miss A. C. Bradley's famous suggestion that Iago's motivation is power alone - of being able to manipulate almost every character like a puppet in a plan that gains its incentive through being a plan alone. Sort of a 'power trip' theory, I suppose. I don't think this is covered by the 'sociopathy' header.
People like Andy Serkis always miss the point. If Iago was so jealous, why wouldn't he keep referring to his jealousy? What jealousy he refers to is generally employed post-facto as a pretext to explain or justify a deeper motivation. Gunstar hero 20:30, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Off current topic - Surely one of Iago's motives is not Othello's infidelity with Emilia, but Emilia's infidelity with Othello, for at this point, Othello wasn't romantically involved with anyone, and thus can't be unfaithful to anybody. Lest he is being unfaithful to Iago.... Even still, I think it is less ambiguously stated as Emilia's infidelity with Othello. I'll change it up now. --Will James (talk) 08:42, 14 June 2009 (UTC) alright dont bite the kids head off there is a lot of ambiguity as to Iagos motivations if you are a little broad minded and less arrogant (talk) 14:40, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Character Analysis[edit]

Are you kidding me? This analysis needs a serious makeover by someone who knows what the hell he's talking about. Complicated my ass...

Although very good, the character analysis of Iago is far too complicated for a mere plebian to read, and I think it should be made more, dare I say it, normal. Not everyone is an english literature graduate!

Also, the huge block of text is quite off-putting and I think it could be broken up, again for simplicity and so it looks less like an essay and more like an encyclopedia entry. --Sclaydonuk 17:45, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I agree. This looks like an undergrad lit paper that's just been copied here. It has no place in an encyclopedia.-- 11:37, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

pardon me if i interrupt, but what does that have to do with a NPOV tag? i mean, it may have style errors, but NPOV? Gorgonzola 17:42, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Oh, please. What do you guys want? Pictures? Nellobanana 02:56, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

Given that the title of that section is "A character analysis of Iago" which sounds very much like an essay title and taking into account the content thereof with specific reference to WP:NOT I have removed the entire section. The information relating to the possible causes for his behaviour has already been stated more succinctly earlier in the article. Any section which contains a statement such as "In the end, it is Iago's failure to grasp the more basic concepts of love, trust, loyalty and spirituality which leads to his downfall" has no place in an encyclopedia. 23:43, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

I reinstated my end commment in the motivation section. a) it is not part of the character study, and had no business being deleted with it, unless the whole motivation section is to go. b) it is not an essay, nor original research, as it only recaps what is plainly said in the main text of the play. --Svartalf 19:55, 25 July 2006 (UTC).

Alright, but I have qualified the final comment which rather stated conjecture as fact, I grant I should have done that in the first place rather than ommiting it, it does state some important information. 20:45, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


pls who knows what the x-ray of iago's soliloquy is in othello? --Anon.

Er. What do you mean, 'x-ray'? --Gwern (contribs) 14:23 10 July 2008 (GMT)


Can someone please provide a source for the statement that Iago is a homosexual? I don't remember coming across any indication of that in the play itself. RobbieG 10:34, 7 October 2006 (UTC)

The theory dates back to the 1940s in psychoanalytical accounts of the play, notably an essay in which Martin Wangh argued that Iago's resentment derives from "a projection of Iago's unconscious homosexual wishes for Othello and Cassio."[1] The main basis for it is Iago's highly eroticised description of sleeping with Cassio, when Cassio in his sleep is alleged to mistake Iago's body for Desdemona's. It has been repeated in numerous articles and debated and disputed ever since.[2] [3]
It is how Orson Welles directed Micheál MacLiammóir to play Iago in his film. LamontCranston 13:54, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
I doubt MacLiammóir needed much encouragement. Paul B 10:06, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced Quotes[edit]

There are unsourced quotes in this article: Andy Serkiss and Ian McDiarmud notably. These need to be sourced in a Note. Blueberrycalendar 11:37, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

I can't speak for McDiarmid, but Serkis's quote came from his Gollum book.--CyberGhostface 14:26, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

Thanks - is it possible to add this as a note in the article, showing that book as a source? Blueberrycalendar 16:10, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Torments will ope thy lips[edit]

As I recall, in the edition of Othello I have (which I can't seem to find at the moment), the responses to Iago's claim that he will never speak again are

What, not to pray?
Torments will ope thy lips

The edition footnotes "torments" with the single word "tortures", suggesting, as this article does, that the Venetians intend to torture him and make him, if not talk, then at least scream.

It seems to me, though, that while that could be a secondary meaning, the primary meaning, after "not to pray?" has to be that since Iago will not pray, he will surely go to Hell, and there he will not be able to keep from crying out. I thought it was very strange that the edition did not mention this, I thought, obvious interpretation. Is it a standard interpretation in other commentary? --Trovatore 07:26, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

I'd not actually thought of that before. Every edition I have seen assumes it refers to torture; I still think torture is the most obvious implication of Gratiano's comment. It is intriguing, however, that Othello responds to Iago's affirmation by saying "Well, thou dost best". Admittedly, this would seem to agree with the Hell interpretation - Othello wants Iago to go to hell so it is better for him never to repent.
However, Othello already assumes Iago to be a devil on some level, so this doesn't make complete sense. We could argue that this represents an extension of Othello's now inverted ethical views - that it is 'happiness to die', and therefore better to go to hell than to heaven. However his earlier words acually contradict his wish for Iago's fate:
I am not sorry neither. I'd have thee live;
For in my sense, 'tis happiness to die.
I still think torture must be the most obvious option, despite the order of Lodovico and Gratiano's comments. It is only logical that the Venetian judiciary system would wish to clarify the matter, and, particularly to a common soldier like Iago, outside of the nobility, torture would undoubtedly have been used. The quote confirming this comes twenty lines later from Lodovico, when he says:
........ For this slave [Iago],
If there be any cunning cruelty
That can torment him much and hold him long,
It shall be his. You shall close prisoner rest
Till that the nature of your fault be known
To the Venetian state. Come, bring away.
This certainly doesn't rule out the possibility of double-entendre from Shakespeare, but Gratiano's first meaning must be torture. Indeed, Lodovico's 'What, not to pray?' could be his own attempt to remind Iago that he will surely die, and probably in excruciating pain, as a result of his crimes.
It's an interesting ambiguity, though. Gunstar hero 13:41, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
I think it's saying that Iago may not be a praying man now, but torture will cause him to pray. I'd have to look it up. Wrad 13:53, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

Iago's age[edit]

It's a while since I've read Othello, but I don't remember reading that Iago was twenty-eight, so I've removed that claim for the moment. If I'm wrong, please feel free to put it back, and accept my apologies. Stratford490 (talk) 16:02, 20 June 2008 (UTC)


O villainous! I have looked upon the world for four times seven years; and since I could distinguish betwixt a benefit and an injury, I never found man that knew how to love himself. Ere I would say, I would drown myself for the love of a guinea-hen, I

would change my humanity with a baboon.

I'm not sure that the first clause of the second sentence admits of any interpretation but that Iago is 28. Surprising as it may seem, Iago's a pretty young guy. --Gwern (contribs) 16:22 20 June 2008 (GMT)

Hm, having observed the world for 28 years does not necessarily mean having been born 28 years ago. Besides, I remember reading a warning from Professor Bradley never to believe anything Iago says, even in a soliloquy, unless it's corroborated by other sources. :-) Stratford490 (talk) 16:39, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Well, googling, I don't see any other interpretation of the lines. Orson Welles, for example, seems fairly clear, and there are a scattering of other links which agree[4] [5][6][7]. These may not be your authoritative critical academic references, but not being a Shakespeare scholar, I wouldn't know where to start. --Gwern (contribs) 05:22 21 June 2008 (GMT)
And Iago as a young man is the only situation that makes sense - the source story for the play describes him as "handsome", and his wife as beautiful and young. Middle or old-aged wouldn't make sense. --Gwern (contribs) 12:59 23 June 2008 (GMT)

People who have also portrayed Iago[edit]

Jerry Lee Lewis portrayed Iago in the 1968 Catch my Soul which was a rock version of Othello. I think the main page should be updated to include him. -- Chris66 22:21 6 August 2008 (EST)

Even if we limit the Portrayed by list to those in the play Othello, the box on the right lists only 19 of the thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of people who have played him. The box should be modified to "notables who portrayed". Also, I'm surprized there are no women on the list. Surely its been portrayed by a notable woman!Abitslow (talk) 23:24, 18 April 2016 (UTC)


Does anyone have a source for Iago wants to get at Othelo because of racism? That certainly wouldn't explain his insistance on getting rid of Cassio. Oh and it seems as though the list of motivations is in a de facto order of most likely/discussed to least likely/discussed. And if that's the case I don't see why Racism is number 2.Father Time89 (talk) 06:43, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

Line for villain[edit]

An anon recently amended the article to read: "'And what's he then that says I play the Villain?' (II.iii.296)", where it had said line 303, not 296. I can't seem to find a consistent line number for this quote. Ours is unreferenced to begin with; Wikisource doesn't include line numbers (and they have a template up warning that their Othello is of unknown provenance). This says line 336, as does this extract; whilst this claims 226.'s old mirror of us says 310, and here's a link claiming 326.

I is confused. --Gwern (contribs) 19:10 17 November 2008 (GMT)

Protagonist or antagonist?[edit]

I was asked this once at an entrance exam, who is the central character of Othello? Although the title and our identification with the character is supposed to indicate that it is Othello, doesn't protagonist mean the person pushing the action towards - isn't this Iago, the whole play is about his manipulation of Othello and all the events. The bad guy is not necessarily the antagonist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bwanaunsignedhype (talkcontribs) 22:15, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

list of motives[edit]

Years ago I read a book (of which, unfortunately I don't remember the author's name) which listed various proposed motives for Iago without committing itself to one. They are:

Melodramatic: Shakespeare simply needed a villain and didn't supply adequate motivation, as with Don John in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Theological: Iago is a devil-worshipper who wants to destroy the good Desdemona and corrupt the good Othello. This was the interpretation used in Verdi's opera OTELLO.

Class warfare: Iago resents being a servant and relishes creating a situation where his "betters" follow HIS will.

Sexual: Iago is in love with Othello and wants the Moor to not only discard Desdemona, but eliminate her. Discussed above.

Artistic: Iago is a warped artist who gets a kick out of making the other characters behave according to his invented story. This was Bradley's theory.

Harold Bloom sticks to Iago's original excuse and fleshes it out: Iago was devoted to Othello and obsessed with his own military reputation, and so interpreted Cassio's promotion as an insult and betrayal. CharlesTheBold (talk) 22:28, 28 April 2010 (UTC)


I'm surprised no one has mentioned the reference to this character in Aladdin: The parrot named Iago who plays a similar role. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Darktangent (talkcontribs) 00:43, 11 May 2010 (UTC)

Iago's Hatred for Othello[edit]

I made a correction that stated that Iago hates Othello because he believes the Moor has slept with his wife, and not because he was passed up as Lieutenant. There is textual evidence to support this. Othello makes Iago his Lieutenant in Act III, scene iii, line 478 ("Now art thou my Lieutenant.") Iago continues his plan to bring Othello down, so clearly the promotion is not the primary reason for his hatred. Furthermore, Iago says in soliloquy, "I hate the Moor, / And it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets / He has done my office." (I.iii.392-4) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:59, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

How about we stop playing God, huh?[edit]

I've provided textual evidence for a change I've made to this page (regarding Iago's hatred for the Moor), which I've included as a reference to my change and mentioned in this talk page, but all that happens is it gets changed back and I get called a vandal. Pick up the nearest copy of Othello, Doniago, and stop spreading lies on Wikipedia. (talk) 04:44, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

What you conveniently failed to mention is that you did not provide any sourcing the first couple of times you made this change. Please assume good faith and don't accuse editors of "spreading lies" when they are reverting your unsourced changes. If an editor is reverting your sourced change, please provide a diff. Thank you for your understanding. Doniago (talk) 05:06, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
The problem is Iago's motivations are never made explicitly clear--he throws out different ones throughout the play. First he's upset that he didn't get promoted, then he later accuses Iago of sleeping with his wife, and so forth. Obviously there is no definitive answer, or else Iago's motives or lack thereof wouldn't be discussed at length by scholars with differing interpretations. What we should do is simply state that he hates Othello and let the reader peruse the motivations section and draw their own conclusion. --CyberGhostface (talk) 05:35, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Works for me. Doniago (talk) 06:26, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
For me as well. I would like to point out, however, that, while I did not provide a source for editing an unsourced claim the first time, I provided a detailed entry on the talk page, which can be found above this entry. After my entry was deleted, I was accused of vandalism, which is why I in turn accused the editors. I will argue, however, that Iago's motives are made clear: the only reason he expresses in soliloquy, when he is sharing his innermost thoughts with the audience, are the rumors about Othello sleeping with Emilia. Everything else, including Cassio's promotion, is part of the lie he tells Roderigo. (talk) 06:34, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Even if his cuckhold was the reason, you still can't determine whether it is because he feels betrayed, his interactions with his wife have been wounded, or perhaps what he minds is that others are laughing at him (to name just three "causes" deriving from the actions he believes occured between his wife and othello). He hate him: was it the betrayal or the public knowledge of it? Both? Neither? Scholars disagee.Abitslow (talk) 23:32, 18 April 2016 (UTC)

Shouldn't the name be Jago rather than lago[edit]

It seems as if someone has done a Find & Replace. If you go to the Othello page, all characters have the first letter in upper case On the TV play, the name Jago is used, not Lago 19:02, 1 March 2012 (UTC) (talk)

I'm not entirely sure what you mean, but the proper name for the character as written by Shakespeare has always been Iago. Often in modern adaptations people change the name. For example in O, Iago was called Hugo.--CyberGhostface (talk) 19:08, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
I think I figured out what he/she meant (took me a minute). He's seeing "Iago" in Wikipedia's sans-serif font and reading it as "lago" with a lowercase ell. Personally I would support a move to a serif font for Wikipedia (among other things it would neatly solve a nasty problem for mathematics articles, which are my principal interest) but unfortunately I don't think there's much chance. --Trovatore (talk) 20:13, 1 March 2012 (UTC)


Iago = Jago = Diego. Seems head-slappingly obvious to me that everyone pronounces this character's name incorrectly, but I could be wrong. Does anyone know of a source which discusses this issue? Tigerboy1966  18:51, 7 September 2014 (UTC)

Diego mentions this, sort of: "Diego is a masculine given name. It is believed to derive from the Greek διδαχη (didache), "teaching", then translated into the Latin word "Didacus" (in Modern English learned, cultured). Etymological evolution of the name shows that it may be eventually be originated from "Iakobos", then evolved into the spanish "Yago" then Santiago ("Santiago"), and finally re-analysed as San Diego.[1]" But I'm not sure how it's relevant to this article? DonIago (talk) 15:51, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

As head-slappingly obvious is that 'Iago' was the Spanish version of the latin Jacobus (English: 'James'), hence the Spanish name of Santiago for the apostle Saint James, revered as Santiago de Compostella, patron saint of Spain, who was also known as Santiago Matamoros- that is 'St James, Moor Killer (Lit. 'Killer of Moors'.
So, no real mystery as why Shakespeare's character should be so named. His name reflects the presence of Spanish soldiery in Italy from 1493 onwards, as too, perhaps, does that of Othello, the Christian Moor.
The pronunciation of both Iago and Santiago are as you would expected. The long, open 'AH' of "Iago" set back in the throat is unquestionably more effective dramatically than the alternative. Each time somebody says the name 'Iago' it comes out as a groan of pain, of supplication, or a growl of anger.
Jake and Jago the English derivatives have no bearing in the pronunciation of the original. Imagine, "Oh the pity of it, Jago, the pity of it.."

JF42 (talk) 16:03, 20 May 2017 (UTC)