On the surface, it may seem like these two characters have nothing in common. Othello is a noble, heroic figure while Iago is a scheming, manipulative villain. However, upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that these two men share more than meets the eye.
Both Othello and Iago are highly intelligent and strategic thinkers. They are both able to size up a situation quickly and make decisions accordingly. This allows them to be successful in their chosen fields – Othello as a military leader and Iago as a courtier.
Both men are also driven by strong emotions. Othello is consumed by jealousy while Iago is fuelled by resentment and a desire for revenge. This emotional intensity allows them to be single-minded in their pursuits, but it also makes them susceptible to making rash decisions.
Both Othello and Iago are ambitious. Othello is determined to be a successful general, and Iago is just as determined to get revenge on Othello for demoting him. This shared trait is what drives the two men to do the things they do throughout the play. Othello’s ambition leads him to believe Iago’s lies, which eventually causes him to kill his own wife. Iago’s ambition leads him to destroy Othello’s life in any way possible.
Othello and Iago are also both quite jealous. Othello is jealous of Cassio because he believes (incorrectly) that Cassio is sleeping with his wife. Iago is jealous of Othello because he believes (again, incorrectly) that Othello has slept with his wife. This jealousy leads to Othello murdering Cassio and Iago trying to ruin Othello’s life.
Othello is a well-respected general, Iago is his ensign. Othello is of high moral character and Iago is not. Othello is trusting and Iago is not. Othello has an honorable reputation and Iago does not. Othello feels love and Iago does not. All of these differences have an impact on the actions Othello and Iago take during the play.
Othello is a tragic hero, while Iago is a sociopath. Othello kills Desdemona out of rage and jealousy, while Iago murders Emilia for no reason other than to further his own goals. Othello’s downfall is caused by his own flaws, while Iago’s downfall is caused by Othello’s. Othello and Iago are two of a kind, two soul mates connected by their inner darkness.
Othello is well-regarded by everyone. Iago feels he deserves more respect, a higher status, greater money, and a more beautiful woman. Othello is a courageous and successful general who overshadow Iago, a coward who kills his rivals from behind. However, in spite of their difference, Othello and Iago are quite similar in numerous ways. Both Othello and Iago are soldiers. They follow military fashion instructions. The duke and senate give Othello orders. When Cassio yells at him to “come to the watch,” Iago does simple soldier duties (II, iii 13).
Othello is very proud of his military career. He constantly reminds others that he is “one not easily jealous” (III, iii, 165). Othello does not like to be doubted in his capabilities as a general. When Iago starts planting the seeds of doubt about Desdemona’s fidelity, Othello starts to worry. Othello says to Iago, “O perdition! O blood!/…Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in thy hate” (III, iii, 370-372).
Othello believes Iago hates Cassio because he was picked over Iago to be Othello’s lieutenant. Othello also believes Iago is a good and honest man. Othello says to Iago, “I do believe it;/…Thou art just and honest” (III, iii, 380-381). Othello trusts Iago because he believes Iago is envious of Cassio, not Othello.
Iago is consumed with envy. He envies Cassio because he was picked over Iago to be Othello’s lieutenant. Iago also envies Othello because Othello is respected by everyone. Iago feels he deserves more respect than he gets. Iago tells Othello, “I hate the Moor” (III, iii, 263).
Iago hates Othello because Othello is a better soldier than Iago and because Othello has a beautiful wife. Iago is also jealous of Othello’s military career. Iago tells Othello, “I am not what I am” (III, iii, 437). Iago is not really honest. He is pretending to be honest to Othello. Iago is really a dishonest man that will do anything to get what he wants.
Iago believes Desdemona has committed adultery, and he accuses her of doing it with Othello! “I do suspect the lusty Moor has leaped into my seat,” he says (II, i, 272). Once Othello has made up his mind about Desdemona’s crime, he does not cease to abuse and belittle her. In Lodovico’s presence, he humiliates Desdemona by striking her in public.
Othello and Iago’s disrespectfulness is a common trait between them. Othello is not just disrespectful to Desdemona but to everyone who is associated with her. After finding out about Cassio’s “affair” with Bianca, Othello immediately fires him from his position as lieutenant. (II, iii, 263)
Othello doesn’t even bother to listen to Cassio’s side of the story or give him a chance to explain what happened. Othello is too consumed by his anger and jealousy that he can’t think straight. Similarly, Iago is also quick to judge and accuse people without any evidence. When Othello promotes Cassio over him, Iago doesn’t bother to listen to Othello’s explanation and immediately starts plotting his revenge.
Iago is not just disrespectful to people in general but also to God. He is an Atheist and does not believe in God or the afterlife. (II, iii, 327) Iago is so evil that he even thinks that there is no point in being good if there is no God. Othello also lacks religious faith and does not believe in the power of prayers. (III, iii, 320) He doesn’t think that his prayers will be answered and that they are just a waste of time. Othello and Iago’s lack of faith is another similarity between them.
Othello and Iago are also both very jealous people. Othello is jealous of Cassio because he thinks that Cassio is having an affair with his wife, Desdemona. (III, iii, 165) Othello is so jealous that he can’t even stand the thought of Cassio talking to Desdemona. (III, iii, 36) Iago is also very jealous of Othello because he thinks that Othello is sleeping with his wife, Emilia. (II, I), 288 Iago is so jealous that he can’t even stand the thought of Othello touching Emilia. (II, I), 290 Othello and Iago’s jealousy is another similarity between them.
Othello and Iago are also both very manipulative people. Othello is manipulated by Iago into thinking that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. (III, iii, 365) Othello is so manipulated that he doesn’t even bother to investigate the matter or to ask Desdemona about it. He just blindly believes what Iago tells him. Similarly, Iago is also very manipulative and is able to convince Othello to promote him over Cassio. (II, I, 195) Iago is so convincing that Othello doesn’t even hesitate to promote him. Othello and Iago’s manipulation is another similarity between them.
Othello and Iago are also both very paranoid people. Othello is so paranoid that he thinks that everyone is out to get him. (III, iii, 447) He even thinks that Desdemona is plotting against him. (III, iii, 450) Iago is also very paranoid and is always suspicious of everyone. (II, I 15,) He even suspects that his wife, Emilia, is having an affair with Othello. (II, I, 288) Othello and Iago’s paranoia is another similarity between them. Othello and Iago are also both very vengeful people.