OUR GOAL IS TO TRACE THE INTRICACIES
OF IAGO'S PLAN TO TRAP OTHELLO.
BY FOLLOWING THE PARTS OF THIS
EXERCISE, YOU SHOULD BEGIN TO
DRAW THE PROPER INFERENCES
REGARDING IAGO AS 'GOTHIC'...
1. What tactics does Iago use and why; do any of the 'evil' characters you know--from Grendel to Darth Vader behave as Iago does?
2. The one fundamental premise upon which Iago's techniques rest should be noted. This premise can be
inferred from an analysis of his techniques. Is this fundamental premise identifiable as a necessary condition for the gothic temperament. Does Ms. Freitas' identify it in her questions?
3. What elements of humanity are being dramatized by Shakespeare? (Is Bloom's thesis applicable?)
4. In addition to the questions below, you should check out the general questions and motifs found in Othello found on this Siteand Ms. Freitas' questions. The motifs are especially important, and a knowledge of them will help you answer the questions...
PART ONE: IAGO AS A THEORIST
1. Look at Iagos remarks to Roderigo (I ,i,1-60). Herein he expresses a clue to his initial ensnaring technique. What is it?
2. Significantly, he provides this clue after the first demonstration of its workability. See (I ,i ,60 ff), What do you find here that illustrates the concept in question. Does the biblical imagery/motif provided here suggest a clue?
3. As if in validation, Roderigo immediately enacts Iago's plans showing the former to be the first of his many dupes. Consult (I ,i, 120-150). How is the enactment suggested?
1. Look at Act I, scene ii. Iago reveals another technique he will use quite often and with great success, especially against Othello. Study the dialogue 1l.1-19 carefully. There are two clues that prove evidence for another of his techniques. Explain...
2. Brabantio alludes to Othellos mystical-almost supernatural fascination for the Romantic spirit in I ,ii, 60ff. Although we know he is not fully correct, does it really matter? Why?
3. Iagos line, Come Sir, I am for you, should suggest an important clue to his methods--here dramatized by Shakespeare. What is it?
4. In I iii, 85 ff, Iago is again silent through 185. Why? What is he learning that provides an important clue to his next move?
5. What does Shakespeare provide in I, iii, 320-340 to show that Iago's plan is working?
1. Prose is used in the play with brutal frankness to reveal Iago's intent. Look at I ,iii, 335-390., noting:
a. A barely concealed clue to one of Iago's most important motives; although it is by no means the final answer, missing the clue here would be a significant error
b. What is cynicism, and how is it demonstrated in the lines?
2. Iago's use of poetic imagery is important since he does not use much of it. What statement does he make in 345, and what kind of imagery does he use? why?
a. How is the imagery an expression of his personality?
b. How does the imagery show a keen knowledge of Othello? How did he gain such knowledge?
3. What evidence in I ,iii, 385 exists to show that Iago regards Roderigo as especially stupid? Why is this knowledge important?
1. Shakespeare uses soliloquy to show the workings of Iago's mind (Don't forget the link on this site for Shakespeare's use of the device.)
2. Of critical importance here is your ability to sift through his motives--what does he believe, and whom is he addressing in his soliloquies?
a. In I ,iii, 375 what can we disbelieve about Iago's motives?
b. Iago shifts his attention to Cassio. Why?
c. Obviously Iago knows what he will do next--at least is outline form; this kind of thinking has a name and is important in understanding what Iago's personality is. How accurate, therefore, is his opinion of Othello?
d. If you look carefully at the soliloquy, you will find the most important clue thus far to Iago's motivation as the first act of the play ends.
1. In Act II, scene one, Iago's dialogue with his wife provides an important clue about his attitude toward women:
a. Why is it important that we know his attitude?
b. From the semi-amusing scene comes a significant truth regarding Iago's philosophical / psychological orientation: ll. 130 ff. Understanding these lines is important.
2. Study the aside in II,i,95 ff. Indeed Iago advances his plan one more step. He reveals a very important additional technique. What is his plan? What does the plan tell us of his cognitive powers?
1. Act II, scene i, lines 210 ff have been called the microcosm of the play. Why? Note Iago's aside. The impact of this scene is essential, and marks one of the play's major turning points.
2. Importantly, Shakespeare next gives Iago a chance to express his views to Roderigo in along prose narrative followed by a soliloquy:
a. Is Iago's assessment (ll .251 ff.) correct, or is it only for Roderigo's benefit?
b. Iago's operations are at their brilliant best in lines 286 ff. What is his plan? How does he shape it to serve his own needs while appearing to satisfy Roderigo at the same time.
c. What of course does Iago not reveal?
3. Naturally the soliloquy in ending II,i is important:
a. Is the assessment of Cassio correct?
b. Is the whole point really relevant to Iago's design?
PART TWO: IMPLEMENTATION
THE REMAINDER OF THE PLAY CONCERNS HOW IAGO
ACTS ON THE 'PHILOSOPHY' HE DEVELOPED
AS OUTLINED ABOVE. IF YOU FOLLOWED HIS
REASONING, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO ASCERTAIN
HOW SPECIFIC IMPLEMENTATION FOLLOWS LOGICALLY
FROM WHAT HE HAS SAID AND DONE THUS FAR.
THE IMPLEMENTATION IS DIVIDED ACCORDINGLY:
1. Cassio phase--intended
2. Othello phase--intended
3. Exposure phase--not intended?
PHASE ONE: CASSIO
1. Note: II ,iii, 30 - 55 and 140-160 carefully. What previously mentioned techniques from Part One are at work here? Note: 207-210. Is the meaning lost on Iago? Provide specific details of the trap and its execution.
2. Transition to Othello Phase: What appears to be a successful completion of the Cassio trap is in reality a prelude to a more complex plot--THIS PROCESS IS ESSENTIAL IN UNDERSTANDING IAGO. See
II ,iii, 317 ff. How does Iago advance the action? Note too the soliloquy at lines 338 ff.
PHASE TWO: OTHELLO:
1. This phase begins with III, iii, 38 ff. These lines are critical. The very simplicity of the language (note the tone) and the carefully calculated responses measured precisely to Othello's nature should be studied with great care. What is revealed about Iago's real motives? What previously mentioned techniques are used?
2. Execution of the Plot:
a. See III, iii, 100 ff. Note the dialogue. Has Othello begun to change? If so, is the change temporary or permanent? Does the phrase 'objective; yet subjectively calculating' fit? How is the paradox resolved?
b. look at lines 190 ff. Note the idea of jealousy. Has it been mentioned before? You will need to compare with V ,ii, 395 ff. Be careful of how you evaluate jealousy in Othello, and Othello.
c. Note the importance of accidents in advancing Iago's plot. See line 326 (stage directions). What ability does Iago have? Does Shakespeare have it also?
d. See III, iii, 375 ff. Is there an irreversible change in Othello?
e. Observe the concept of "ocular proof" in this scene--line 405 ff. How is it provided? What does Iago understand about Othello's character?
f. Note III, iv, 76 ff. What here is predictable from what you know of Iago?
g. In IV, i, 54-75, explain what the word "medicine" means
h. The action in IV,i, 250 ff. has been considered too brutal to stage. Does Othello achieve here what Iago has intended? Note the exquisite and beautifully tortuous simplicity of: "I have not deserved this." This is Shakespeare at his best.
i. In the opening lines of V, we have a significant clue to Iago's "motivation." What is it?
j. Does Othello achieve tragic status?
PHASE THREE; EXPOSURE:
1. Observe the exposure of Iago carefully--What does the repeated use of the interrogative mood tell you?
2. Perhaps the coldest lines in the play are in response to Othello's questions in V , ii, 350-51. Lines 352-353 by Iago should be noted carefully. Do you believe him? How do they provide a clue to his character?
WHAT WAS A POSSIBLE INTENTION OF SHAKESPEARE IN CREATING IAGO?
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