Iago, not just a Parrot

My project:

I chose the drama masks to represent Iago’s two-faced nature. The black and white were chosen because of the racial bias Iago shows in regards to Othello. The text is green because jealousy is often associated with green.

Since the dawn of humanity, there has been a never-ending search for a reason for the Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? Of the world surrounding humankind. An answer for many was the advent of religion. The Romans had an entire pantheon of deities for every possible scenario. One such deity was Janus. Janus ruled over the domain of doors, gates, and transitions. The duality of Janus is shown by his portrayal as a two-faced man. In modern times and even in the times of Shakespeare, being two-faced is heavy with negative connotations. You can see it clearly in Nightmare Before Christmas with the Mayor of Halloween Town, he has both a frowny face and a smiley face. He is shown to bounce between one extreme to the other. It is portrayed as both humorous but also as a negative thing, where Jack the Pumpkin King has to step in and offer ideas. [The context this has for those dealing with bi-polar and borderline disorders is not a pleasant one either.] A two-faced politician is nothing new, and in the case of Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello it is more then a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

For many people the first thing that comes to mind when the name Iago is mentioned isn’t the antagonist from Othello, it is the secondary antagonist from Disney’s Aladdin who is always whispering into Jafar’s ear.

When we first meet Iago he is very clearly a villian, but as Disney does he is redeemed. There is a whole cartoon series where Iago is seen as the lovable cynical sidekick. The real question is what does all this babble have to do with Othello and Iago. Well. Iago in Othello makes no qualms about his duplicitous nature. Unlike in Nightmare Before Christmas or Aladdin in Othello, Iago’s two-faced behavior serves to further the plot. To Othello’s face he is a well-mannered minion.

My lord, you know I love you.

Act 3, Scene 3

But from the start Iago attacks Othello’s character to those around him. From Desdemona’s father.

An old black ram is tupping your white ewe.

Act 1, Scene 1

Iago seeks to isolate Othello and in the end succeeds at separating Othello from his wife.

She did decieve her father, marrying you….

Act 3, Scene 3

From the start though Iago was honest about how two-faced he was.

I am not what I am.

Act 1, Scene 1

I follow him to serve my own turn upon him.

Act 1, Scene 1

I hate the moor.

Act 1, Scene 3

Iago uses Othello’s race against him, seeking to divide him not solely based on supposed status but also on the basis on skin color. This is a tactic that exists in today’s politics as well. How often do politicians foster an us versus them mentality to garner votes? Trump used similar tactics on the campaign trail in 2015.

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.


What does this have to do with my project and why does it matter? If we don’t strive to be different then we fall into the same tropes. History is doomed to repeat itself when no one learns from it. Othello may be a play but the sentiments expressed were relevant to the times and are still present today. By acknowledging the behavior we can change it.

One thought on “Iago, not just a Parrot

  1. I really enjoyed your project, I think it was important to point out the two sided nature of Iago, and I like the connection to other two faced characters in films. Not only did you connect the reading with other characters, you were able to read between the lines of the play and get critical ideas from it. Great work!

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