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Shakespeare is well known for promoting what seems like secondary characters into main characters. Often we end up finding these secondary characters more intriguing and interesting, which further propels them into that “main character” placeholder. Othello is an excellent example of this, as many would argue that Iago is the actual main character.
While he isn't officially dubbed as the "main character", Iago is certainly the main antagonist in the play. He is the thorn in Othello’s side if you will. His wife is Desdemona's (Othello's wife) attendant, so he has close contact with Othello. He is bent on bringing Othello down and basically ruining his life. It is the very reason Iago wakes in the morning.
What makes the relationship more convoluted is that he and Othello have known each other for many years and even fought beside one another. Othello has no idea of the hatred Iago has for him. So how does all of this contribute to Iago’s role as the main character?
It is in fact Iago’s actions that mold and shape Othello’s actions. He is the one behind all the drama, and is in fact the puppeteer. He is determined to make Othello believe that his wife is having an affair. Iago feels no remorse for his actions and what he is doing to Othello. Many scholars have argued that Iago is actually one of the first examples of a true psychopath in a play/novel. He is only interested in his own goals, not caring who he may hurt and destroy in the process.
The reader becomes more and more interested in Iago and what his next actions will be, as Othello starts to take a backseat. While the reader feels sympathy for Othello, he starts to become secondary in the plot. It’s all about what will happen next, and what will Iago orchestrate.
Shakespeare is truly brilliant at taking a character who seems to be the main one, and relegating them to a secondary role. It’s often done in a slow and calculated manner, so before the reader realizes what’s happening, they are more invested in a different character. Because of Iago’s loathsome actions and behavior, it’s easy to see why readers are intrigued with his story.
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