Othello

Iago Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Othello's disloyal standard-bearer and the villain of the play. Angry at having been passed over by Othello for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, and also because he seems to enjoy creating mayhem for its own sake, Iago develops an intricate conspiracy to ruin Othello. He is married to Emilia.

Iago Quotes in Othello

The Othello quotes below are all either spoken by Iago or refer to Iago. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Othello published in 2015.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
"When my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.67-71
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
"The Moor is of a free and open nature
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;
And will as tenderly be led by th' nose
As asses are."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Othello
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 1.3.442-445
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
"Oh heavy ignorance! Thou praisest the worst best."
Related Characters: Desdemona (speaker), Iago
Page Number: 2.1.158-159
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Her eye must be fed."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Desdemona
Page Number: 2.1.246
Explanation and Analysis:

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"I'll [...] make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me
For making him egregiously an ass."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Othello
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 2.1.330-331
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, scene 3 Quotes
"Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! And when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Iago
Page Number: 3.3.100-102
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed"
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Othello
Page Number: 3.3.182-190
Explanation and Analysis:

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"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Othello
Page Number: 3.3.195-197
Explanation and Analysis:

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"This honest creature doubtless
Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Iago
Page Number: 3.3.283-284
Explanation and Analysis:

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"This fellow's of exceeding honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit
Of human dealings."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Iago
Page Number: 3.3.299-301
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Iago
Related Symbols: The Handkerchief
Page Number: 3.3.412
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
"Her honor is an essence that's not seen;
They have it very oft that have it not."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Desdemona
Related Symbols: The Handkerchief
Page Number: 4.1.20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, scene 2 Quotes
"I told him what I thought, and told no more
Than what he found himself was apt and true."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Othello
Page Number: 5.2.212-213
Explanation and Analysis:

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Iago Character Timeline in Othello

The timeline below shows where the character Iago appears in Othello. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
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On a street in Venice, Italy, Roderigo, a nobleman, and Iago are in the middle of an argument. Roderigo has paid Iago a lot of money... (full context)
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Iago assures Roderigo that he hates Othello, and explains that Othello recently passed him over for... (full context)
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Iago then adds that while he currently pretends to serve Othello, he is in fact just... (full context)
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Iago and Roderigo go to the house of Brabantio, a senator and Desdemona's father. They shout... (full context)
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...house for his daughter, worried because he has had a "dream" (1.1.140) anticipating these events. Iago takes the chance to leave in order to keep his plot against Othello secret. (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
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At the inn where Othello is lodging, Iago tells Othello that he wanted to stab Roderigo when he hears the things Roderigo was... (full context)
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Just then, they see a group of men approaching. Iago says it must be Brabantio and advises Othello to go inside. Othello refuses, preferring to... (full context)
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Iago then mentions to Cassio that Othello has married. But before he can say who Othello... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
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...Cyprus that night, he decides that Desdemona should follow after him in the care of Iago, and asks Iago to have his wife attend Desdemona. Othello and Desdemona then exit to... (full context)
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Iago and Roderigo are left alone. Roderigo, convinced his chances with Desdemona are now hopelessly lost,... (full context)
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Alone, Iago delivers a soliloquy in which he says again that he hates the Moor. He notes... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
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The Venetian ship carrying Desdemona, Iago, Emilia (Iago's wife), and Roderigo is the next to arrive. As soon as they arrive,... (full context)
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As they wait for Othello to arrive, Iago and Desdemona banter. Iago portrays all women, whether beautiful, ugly, smart, or foolish, as generally... (full context)
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Cassio, courteous as always, takes Desdemona's hand and speaks with her privately for a moment. Iago notices, and says that this little courtesy of Cassio taking Desdemona's hand will be enough... (full context)
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...as they age. Othello then thanks the people of Cyprus for their hospitality. He asks Iago to oversee the unloading of his ship, and he, Desdemona, and all but Iago and... (full context)
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Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is bound to tire of Othello, and want instead someone younger,... (full context)
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In fact, Iago says, Desdemona already loves Cassio, and he asks if Roderigo noticed them touching hands. Roderigo... (full context)
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Alone, Iago delivers his second soliloquy. He says that he thinks it likely that Cassio does indeed... (full context)
Act 2, scene 3
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...that the men on guard practice moderation and self-restraint despite the party. Cassio says that Iago knows what to do, but that he will make sure to see to it himself.... (full context)
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When Othello and Desdemona are gone, Iago praises Desdemona's beauty while also slyly suggesting that she might be a seductress. Cassio agrees... (full context)
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Iago then turns the conversation to the revels, and tries to convince Cassio to take a... (full context)
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Alone, Iago addresses the audience: the revelers are Roderigo and three men of Cyrpus, who are all... (full context)
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While Cassio is gone, Iago speaks with Montano, telling him that Cassio is a great soldier, but that he has... (full context)
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...that Cassio is drunk. Cassio is offended, and he and Montano fight. During the fighting, Iago sends Roderigo to raise an alarm. Cassio injures Montano. (full context)
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...immediately puts an end to the fighting, and demands to know how the fighting began. Iago and Cassio say they do not know, while Montano says that he is too injured... (full context)
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Iago speaks, saying that it pains him to cause any harm to Cassio but that he... (full context)
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When Iago finishes his story, Othello says that he can tell that, out of love for Cassio,... (full context)
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...reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial" (2.3.251-3). Iago asks if Cassio knew who he was chasing after, but Cassio says that he can't... (full context)
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Iago delivers another soliloquy, in which he says that his advice to Cassio is actually good... (full context)
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Roderigo enters. He is angry that he has gotten himself beaten by Cassio and given Iago almost all his money, but does not have Desdemona. Iago tells him to be patient,... (full context)
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Roderigo exits. Iago addresses the audience, outlining his plan: he will get his wife to set up a... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
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...bring Emilia to him so that he may speak with her. The clown exits and Iago enters. Cassio explains that he sent the clown to get Emilia. Iago says that he... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
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Othello, Iago, and a gentleman walk together. Othello gives Iago some letters to send to the Venetian... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
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...Desdemona assures Cassio that she will help him regain his position. Just then, Othello and Iago enter. Cassio feels so ashamed that he feels unable to talk with Othello, and exits.... (full context)
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Othello and Iago are now alone. Iago starts asking vague but leading questions about Cassio, until Othello finally... (full context)
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Iago again says that his suspicions are likely false. He warns Othello against the dangers of... (full context)
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Iago exits. Othello, alone, now voices worry that perhaps it's unrealistic for him to expect Desdemona... (full context)
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...it since it was the first gift that Othello gave to her, and also that Iago is always asking her to steal it for some reason. She decides to make a... (full context)
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Iago enters. To his delight, Emilia shows him the handkerchief. He grabs it from her hand.... (full context)
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Othello enters, frantic and furious, and says to Iago that he would have been happier to be deceived than to suspect. He shouts farewell... (full context)
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Iago responds that it's probably impossible to actually catch Desdemona and Cassio in the act of... (full context)
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But Iago cautions Othello that it was just Cassio's dream and may not signify anything about Desdemona's... (full context)
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...in aguish, then kneels and vows that he will take revenge on Cassio and Desdemona. Iago kneels and vows as well. Othello makes Iago his new lieutenant. (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
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Iago and Cassio enter. Cassio asks about his suit, but Desdemona tells him that he must... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
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Othello and Iago enter, discussing infidelity. Iago uses the conversation to further enrage Othello, then lets slip that... (full context)
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Cassio enters while Othello is unconscious from his fit. Iago informs Cassio that this is Othello’s second fit in as many days, and though Cassio... (full context)
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Othello’s fit ends after Cassio exits. Iago tells Othello that Cassio passed by during Othello’s fit and will soon return to speak... (full context)
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Alone, Iago explains to the audience that he will actually speak with Cassio about Bianca, who’s doting... (full context)
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...Desdemona. He keeps remembering what a kind, beautiful, talented, and delicate person she is. But Iago convinces him that these qualities make her unfaithfulness all the worse. Othello, at Iago’s prodding,... (full context)
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...can’t believe that Othello, renowned for his unshakable self-control, would act this way. He asks Iago if Othello has gone mad. Iago refuses to answer, but clearly implies that something seems... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
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Desdemona asks Emilia to fetch Iago, whom Desdemona then questions about Othello's behavior. Emilia thinks that it must be the doing... (full context)
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...angry that he still does not have Desdemona despite all the jewels he's given to Iago to pass on to her. He says he is ready to give up his effort... (full context)
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Iago responds that he's been working diligently on Roderigo's behalf and can promise that Rodrigo will... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
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In the street, Iago and Roderigo wait to ambush Cassio as he emerges from his visit to Bianca. Iago... (full context)
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...Roderigo attacks, but Cassio's armor turns away the thrust. Cassio counterattacks, wounding Roderigo. From behind, Iago darts in and stabs Cassio in the leg, then runs away. From a distance, Othello... (full context)
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...cries of pain from Cassio and Roderigo, but it's so dark they can't see anything. Iago enters, carrying a light, and is recognized by Lodovico and Graziano. He finds Cassio, and... (full context)
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As Iago, Lodovico, and Graziano tend to Cassio's wounds, Bianca enters and cries out when she sees... (full context)
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Cassio is carried offstage and Emilia enters. When Iago explains what has happened, Emilia curses Bianca. Bianca responds by saying that she is as... (full context)
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Iago has Bianca arrested, and in an aside to the audience says "This is the night... (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
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...that Cassio has confessed to sleeping with her and, in punishment, has been killed by Iago. Desdemona begins to weep, which only infuriates Othello since he believes that she is crying... (full context)
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...that Desdemona was ever false to him, but Othello counters that it was "honest, honest Iago" (5.2.156) who showed him the truth. (full context)
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Emilia is dumbfounded as she digests this information, but recovers herself enough to say that Iago was lying and to condemn Othello's actions. Othello threatens Emilia to keep quiet, but Emilia... (full context)
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Montano, Graziano, and Iago enter. Othello admits once more, this time to Graziano, Desdemona's uncle, that he smothered Desdemona.... (full context)
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Realizing that Iago lied to him, Othello attacks Iago, but is disarmed by Montano. In the uproar, Iago... (full context)
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...enters to find Othello armed and mourning Desdemona. Moments later Lodovico and Montano enter with Iago, whom they've captured. Cassio also enters, carried in on a chair. Othello immediately stabs Iago,... (full context)
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Lodovico demands that Iago look upon the destruction he has caused. He notes that Graziano is Othello's heir, and... (full context)