Iago as a Satan Figure in Othello
The play "Othello" by William Shakespeare is based on an Italian story in Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi (Groliers). In "Othello" we encounter Iago, one of Shakespeare's most evil characters. Iago is an ensign in Othello's army and is jealous of Cassio's promotion to Lieutenant. Through deception and appearance, we see unfolded a plethora of lies and clever schemes. The astonishing thing about Iago is that he seems to make up his malicious schemes as he goes along without any forethought. Noted writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes Iago's plan as "motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" (Scott 413). Iago seizes every opportunity to further advance his plan to his advantage. Greed plays a major role as a motive for his various schemes. Throughout the story, Iago portrays himself as a Satan figure. In many ways, Iago can compare with Satan.
Iago, like Satan, has proved himself to be a master at deception. He lies to everyone taking great care to disguise his own thoughts. For example, in Act 1, scene 2, when he is speaking to Othello about his feelings toward Cassio, he uses very strong language of a manly soldier, while at the same time, he lies throughout the whole speech faking loyalty to a fellow soldier and all the while implying that he is reluctantly holding back the full truth: "I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth/ Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio" (I.ii.21-22). This deception impresses and convinces Othello that his ensign is a good and loyal soldier. Iago also succeeds in deceiving Cassio. After Cassio's drunken fight, Iago counsels him to speak to Desdimona about trying to convince Othello to reinstate him as lieutenant, all the while knowing that this will only prove helpful to his plan of having Othello see him with Desdimona. Cassio answers him: "You advise me well. . . Goodnight, honest Iago" (II.iii.332/340). Thus, even Cassio is capable of being deceived by Iago. With all of this deception, it is a wonder that Iago is not Satan himself. He even gives an account to his plan of deception, in a soliloquy, in Act II. In comparing himself with Satan, he says:
When devils will the blackest sins put on/ They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,/ As I do now: for whiles this honest fool/ Plies Desdimona to repair his fortunes/
And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,/ I'll pour this pestilence into his ear. . . (II.iii.301-306)
Iago describes how Satan uses the appearance of something good to disguise the various temptations that we know are evil. He then tells how he will do the same; that while Cassio is begging Desdimona to tell Othello to take him back, Iago then will start his destructive scheme. Satan also deceives by lying and twisting the truth. When he told Eve in the garden of Eden: "surely you will not die" (Gen.3:4), he twisted the truth to deceive her. The apostle John calls him the ultimate liar:...