Weakness is defined by fear, the more fearful or cowardice you are the weaker you are. In Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ Iago is a weak character who is cowardly, but also cunning and clever, forcing the audience to analyze the play and Iago as a character to decide whether or not he is strong or weak. Shakespeare creates this effect by using soliloquies that allow the audience to see Iago’s true thoughts as he manipulates everyone into seeing him as kind and honest.
Iago discreetly manipulates Othello into killing his own wife and attempts to hide from the consequences of being found out by lying to Othello about where he hears or finds things . At the end of the play when Iago is revealed to be the true villain he attempts to run and hide from the consequences of his actions of manipulation.
We first see Iago’s cowardness in A1 S1 where Shakespeare uses a soliloquy to allow Iago to say the line “I am not what I am”. This quote is the first instance where the audience can see how Iago is two faced and to characterize him based on one of his faces is not possible because of his contradicting alter ego . Iago’s two different personas that he uses to manipulate other characters in the play are contradicting as one is portrayed as trustful and honest and the other character is seen as evil and cunning . Analyzing Iago requires for the audience member to understand which façade is Iago’s true character , but to also understand why Iago’s puts on his second façade . Iago’s second façade shows his wish to have power but not wanting the consequences of his manipulation to have any kind of negative impact on himself. Iago creates his façade so that he can manipulate the other characters in the play to his will while still seeming to be the honest Iago everyone knows him as , which allows for him to hide from the consequences of his actions . This links to Shakespeare’s purpose of the idea of appearance vs reality , where Iago appears to be honest and trustful where in reality he is a cunning coward who wants power but without the consequences of him bringing others down to allow him power.
Furthermore this is shown when Iago is with Othello when he pledges to kill his wife Desdemona. “She must die else she will betray more men.” The quote said by Othello tries to convince the audience that Othello is the one who has made this decision on his own when in fact Iago has made this decision for him and is making him do his bidding unknowingly . Iago uses his “honest” façade to convince Othello that his wife is cheating on him , then using his true self to out Othello’s crime and using it to gain power. Iago’s discrete manipulation of Othello shows both his cunningness and cowardice as he manipulates Othello into doing his bidding which gains Iago power but does the manipulation discreetly so that he cannot have any of the blame for the crime Othello will commit. This is the second time we see Iago’s true self come through in his façade where he acts innocent and honest but when you look at his character closely you are able to see his evil , cunning and fearful side come through with his own personal motives. This links back to Shakespeare’s purpose of the idea of human nature where humans constantly want things that better themselves.
Lastly this is shown at the end of the play when Iago shows his weakness by interrupting his wife with quotes like “shut up women” . This is the first and only time in which we see Iago be aggressive towards his wife openly which he does so because he is scared that his plans will be revealed and that he will have to face the consequences of his actions which he has been avoiding throughout the play. In current times men speak to women more humanly and kindly in comparison to the Shakespearean times , this means current day audiences are able to clearly see that there is something wrong with his actions and he is clearly hiding something . But when studying the play and looking at the author’s intent this moment is to describe society at the time and was not used to show weakness but to show relation to reality at the time. This links to the author’s purpose of the idea of change where no matter the era there is different meanings to words and actions as portrayed in Othello where current era audiences see this moment as a sign of weakness whereas at the era the play was written this moment would have been seen as a sign of strength for following society norms and standing against a women . The change in the eras and the change in human nature allows for different understandings of the same play through the actions taken by the characters and what that actions means in different eras of society.
Shakespeare shows Iago’s weakness by using underlying tones and meanings behind actions within his play Othello. All of Iago’s actions throughout the play have an underlying tone of weakness which is his true self, not either of his facades that he puts on in front of other characters. Shakespeare uses Iago’s facades to show his weakness and fearfulness as Iago hides behind his façade when something he did goes wrong . Iago hides from the consequences of his own actions fearful of the consequences behind his mistakes and wrongdoings like a child. Cowardness is fearfulness in human form where fear takes over the body and hides from its fears , this is seen in Iago where he has to create a façade which he uses as a wall to hide behind in the event of wrong doings.