Othello

by

William Shakespeare

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Othello: Soliloquy 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 2, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Iago's Soliloquies:

Iago’s soliloquies are used as a device to create dramatic irony by exposing Iago’s real intentions to the audience. The insights into Iago’s plotting emphasize Iago’s control and paints him unambiguously as the play’s scheming villain, weaving “the net that shall enmesh them all.” Iago’s seven soliloquies also add structure to the play. Littered throughout and structurally placed at the beginning or ends of scenes, Iago’s soliloquies signpost to the reader how the plot is progressing, making him a semi-narrator figure.

Indeed, the articulateness of Iago’s soliloquies highlights his mastery of language and indicates his capacity for storytelling. This is evident in Iago’s soliloquy in Act 2, Scene 3, for example, just after Iago convinces Cassio to ingratiate himself with Desdemona. It ends:

I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear:
That she repeals him for her body’s lust;
And by how much she strives to do him good,
She shall undo her credit with the Moor.
So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all. 

As this section of the soliloquy shows, Iago has a natural flair for language. Even in private, his speech is filled with figurative language and evocative images. Iago’s use of verse further highlights his sophistication, and the regular meter of his speech, written in iambic pentameter, reflects the measured and calculated nature of both his language and temperament. 

Iago’s frequent soliloquies also emphasizes his isolation as a character. Iago does not confide his plan in anyone else; he devises the plot on his own terms, something which indicates his cynical and suspicious nature towards others. However, it also works to create an intimacy with the audience, Iago’s lone listeners. Such intimacy draws the audience in as Iago’s accomplices, with only them being privy to the machinations of his deceit. The resultant dramatic irony creates an imbalance of knowledge between the audience and the other characters in the play who will become Iago’s victims, a perhaps intentional attempt to implicate the audience themselves in the actions of the play. By telling the audience what he is going to do, Iago forces the audience to shoulder some of the burden. The audience itself cannot avoid Iago’s manipulation.