'Othello is a study into the potency of evil'

Discuss this view of the play, paying careful attention to Iago's motives and destructive achievements (you should concerntrate on Act III Scene III though you will have to relate it to other parts of the play).

Potent in its literal sense means powerful. This essay therefore is based on a statement saying that the play is a study into the power of evil. Evil is conveyed in many different ways in Othello, but they all seem to radiate from Iago. Therefore it would only be appropriate if I did a study into the evil of Iago, and how it affects everything and everybody in the play.

Shakespeare conveys Iago's evil in many ways throughout Othello, and shows the methods that Iago uses in order to make Othello trust him. These methods obviously work, shown by the fact that he is repeatedly called honest; I will be commenting on these throughout my essay. He is much like the character 'Vice' from 'miracle plays' of the 16 and 17th Century that tell the audience what their plan is, and so they all become fellow conspirators in a way. This was done well in the production I saw in Manchester, as the actor playing Iago was good and convincing at talking to the crowd and making us realise that it is the enemy within we should fear most.

Some people could argue that Iago was extremely lucky to have all the opportunities put in front of him, such as Emilia finding Othello's handkerchief. I, however believe that whatever the situation, Iago would be able to take the situation, and therefore Othello's downfall was imminent. An example of this would be in Act III, Scene III. Iago says, 'Look to your wife; observe her well with Casio,' which is taking advantage of knowing that Desdemona will try to defend Cassio and seem to be in love with him. In adapting to new situations, Iago uses people's strengths and weaknesses, also like in the extract above. This is a sign of his evil, reversing good things and making them bad.

Over the course of Act III, Scene III, Iago turns Othello into the same kind of evil person he is. It is almost like a possessive type of evil, like in the old morality or 'miracle' plays I mentioned in a previous paragraph. One of the ways the audience can tell what state of mind Othello is in, and how much Iago's ego has influenced him, is by the his of language. In most of Shakespeare's plays, the evil one speaks in riddles, and the good character, even if temporarily good, speaks like a clear minded, rational person. For example, in the beginning, Iago says, 'If I were Othello, I would not be Iago,' meaning that it is in Othello's best interests not to have employed Iago. However this kind of language slowly rubs off, and certain recognisable riddles are repeated by the 'possessed' Othello; terms like 'tupping', which is a term for animal sex. Othello even admits to his 'heart having turned to stone' on page 225. Iago manages to change a perfectly reasonable Othello into a lunatic with murder on his mind in just one scene.

Iago believes that there is no such thing as love, and that everything boils down to lust. This is shown many times, often in a subtle manor. This trait along with others, infects Othello, and this is shown where he says, 'O, blood, blood, blood!' With blood being a symbol of lust. Another sign that Iago does not understand love is in the fact that Iago does not seem to care whether Emilia has had an affair with Cassio, but sees it as a possible motive. If he loved her even half as much as Othello loved Desdemona, he would be very upset, and certainly not use it to his advantage.

A part of Iago's evil, is how he makes himself seem to be telling the truth, when really he is scheming intelligently. A part of this is the 'injured innocence' that he uses, such as where he says, 'I hope you will consider what is spoke comes from my love,' coming just so that Othello does not question Iago's motives. Iago continues to use comments like this throughout the play, just so that Othello is not suspicious; until finally Othello does