The Iago Effect

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Since I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s Othello in school, I thought it appropriate to rummage through my movie database and find all the movie characters and villains that are essentially carbon-copies of Othello‘s Iago. For those who haven’t read Othello, you might be wondering who the hell Iago is. Well in a short summary, Iago is Othello’s ancient who plans the demise of his General. His supposed reason is because Othello passed him over for a promotion to lieutenant. However, Iago’s motivations are scrambled and seem to stem from his seemingly obsessive delight in the manipulation and destruction of others. Now that we’ve got Iago covered, let’s look at his lookalikes.

1. Fredo Corleone (The Godfather: Part II)

Fredo Corleone is essentially a mobster Iago with a balding issue and really ugly fedora. Fredo, like Iago, feels looked down upon, and, although he never explicitly states it, he is jealous of his younger brother Michael who has now become the head of the family. I don’t believe Fredo wants to become the head of the family, but rather just wants a degree of respect, which he feels like is constantly taken away from him. He thinks he is being viewed as the weakest link in the family and the worst part is that even his own younger brother looks down on him. In summary, Fredo really craves for Michael and the Family’s respect, just how Iago wants to be recognized for his hard work. Fredo believes himself to be a failure, and ends up trying to prove himself in one of thee worst possible ways in movie history.

Fredo Corleone is obviously more likable and sympathetic than Othello’s Iago, but those key motifs of jealousy, respect, and status all seem to shared between the two characters.

2. Tom Ripley in The Talented (Mr. Ripley)

One of Iago’s main sources of motivation in Othello is key to the seven sins of humanity: envy. Just as Iago envies the respect and wealth of Othello, Tom Ripley craves the excitement and characteristics of his close “friend”/target  Dickie Greenleaf, a wealthy heir whom he was hired to fetch by Dickie’s father. Simialr to Iago, Tom’s tools of villainy do not lie in his muscles or money, but in his clever lies and speech. Tom gets so tangled in his deceptions and charms, that he loses vision of his own desires, as well as a grasp on reality itself. He becomes so separated from what really matters that you get the feeling that he’s not even enjoying the rewards of his lies and deceits, but rather doing it for the sake of doing it.

3. Iago and Jafar (Aladdin) 

The third and final Iago lookalikes are a no-brainer, I mean come on, the parrot is even named Iago! Since I couldn’t choose which one is more similar to Iago, I decided to just do both. Jafar and Iago manipulate the Sultan and Aladdin to do their bidding, just like how Othello’s Iago becomes a puppeteer of Othello and Roderigo, guiding and changing each of their decisions. In Aladdin, no one has any real reason not to trust Jafar and Iago, similar to how no one had any concrete reason to doubt Shakespeare’s Iago, since he was essentially Othello’s sidekick in a sense and had never previously shown any signs of deceit. Also, there is a shared feeling of dramatic irony in Othello and Aladdin, since the audience knows the characters true motifs and can see through their deception.


One thought on “The Iago Effect

    Brittany Lee said:
    October 16, 2013 at 12:00 am

    This is a spectacular post!

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