We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Who is Iago?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Iago is a fictional character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. The character has more lines than anyone else in the play, and more lines than any non-title character in any of Shakespeare’s other works. Many scholars have debated Iago’s motives, personality, and place in the world of Shakespeare. He is considered one of the most evil villains in all of Shakespeare, bringing about the death of his closest friends and wife.

In Othello, Iago is discontented at not receiving a promotion from General Othello, who bestowed the position of lieutenant on Cassio instead. The villain sets about laying an intricate plot to bring down Cassio, which ends in Cassio being demoted. Unsatisfied with this result, the character convinces Othello that Desdemona, the general’s wife, is cheating on him. Sure that the villain is correct, Othello smothers Desdemona with a pillow, only to be informed by Emilia, Iago’s wife, that Desdemona was completely innocent.

Upon Emilia’s betrayal, her villainous husband stabs her to death. Othello, horrified at his actions, kills himself. Iago, famously refusing to explain his actions, is captured and presumably executed for his crimes.

The scheming character is often considered an archetypal Machiavellian villain. In his 1532 political treatise The Prince, Machiavelli outlined a course of political existence founded on the idea that the most effective way to rule is by maintaining a perfectly moral public façade while taking any action, however extreme, to keep or gain power. Iago is considered an excellent example of this principle as he is able to carry out his villainy only by manipulating the perfect trust other characters have for him. It is likely that Shakespeare would have known at least the theory of Machiavellianism, and many scholars believe he drew on the concept in creating Iago.

One popular though highly controversial interpretation of the character is that he acts out of unrequited homosexual desire for Othello. This concept of the character is drawn on several textual readings, including his apparent hatred of women. The most frequently cited textual example is in Act III, Scene iii, in which Othello and his traitorous friend make a pledge to each other considered by some to be reminiscent of a wedding ceremony. In this theory, his motivation is jealousy that Cassio and Desdemona have supplanted him in Othello’s affection. Generally, this interpretation is either loved or despised by scholars, although Kenneth Branagh incorporated it into his film version of the play.

The complicated role of the villain of Othello inspires great competition in the acting world, and many famous stage and screen actors have undertaken the role. Richard Dreyfuss, Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, and Christopher Walken have all played the character at least once in their careers. Actor Andy Serkis, in his book Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic suggests his own interpretation: that Iago was a nice guy who becomes addicted to power as his plans succeed.

Several modern film adaptations of the play have been made, from the text-faithful versions of Branagh and Olivier to 2001’s O, a modernization set in a high school, where the villain is a steroid-addicted basketball player. With more than ten screen adaptations of the play produced since the 1920s, the fascination with Iago and his divisive motivations seems to continue gaining popularity, as ever more theories are invented by scholars and fans of the play.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Language & Humanities. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By Noblerabbit — On Apr 08, 2011

To me, Iago has to be one of the most complex and fascinating Shakespearian characters of all. He is the catalyst and instigator for Othello's jealousy while all the time reaping the twisted benefits of such a task.

He also has been played most masterfully by (Sir) Ian McKellen, if you've never seen his performance then I suggest you look it up.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.