This is perhaps Shakespeare’s darkest play – featuring characters that are flawed and damaged, but which completely captivate us. Our title character – Othello, the Moor - is a highly regarded general. As the play opens he has recently eloped with the lovely Desdemona, to the consternation of her father and others who were hopeful suitors. Egged on by Iago (one of literature’s most reviled villains), they accuse Othello of somehow bewitching Desdemona, but the couple successfully convinces everyone that their love is true and pure.
Iago is a true sociopath. Rules do not apply to him, and duplicity is second nature to him. His oily manner convinces everyone that he has only their own best interests at heart while he plants seeds of doubt everywhere, ensuring that everyone becomes suspicious and disheartened. Iago uses the other characters as his pawns some sort of game he plays for his own benefit. He particularly targets Othello, recognizes the chink in his armor is his relationship with Desdemona, and manages to turn this noble general into a homicidal, emotional wreck.
I do wonder how Othello, Cassio, and Roderigo (among others) can be so easily swayed by Iago. Othello, in particular, should be able to see through this smarmy false friend. I’m completely perplexed by Emilia’s role in this tragedy. How can she abet her husband’s evil plans? Is she really so clueless?
Shakespeare writes a true psychological drama, exploring the darkest human emotion and motivation.