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He manipulates his wife Emilia, Desdemona's lady-in-waiting, into taking from Desdemona a handkerchief that Othello had given her; he then tells Othello that he had seen it in Cassio's possession.Once Othello flies into a jealous rage, Iago tells him to hide and look on while he (Iago) talks to Cassio.
The role is thought to have been first played by Robert Armin, who typically played intelligent clown roles like Touchstone in As You Like It or Feste in Twelfth Night.
While no English translation of Cinthio was available in Shakespeare's lifetime, it is possible Shakespeare knew the Italian original, Gabriel Chappuy's 1584 French translation, or an English translation in manuscript.
Soon afterwards, however, Emilia brings Iago's treachery to light, and Iago kills her in a fit of rage before being arrested.
He remains famously reticent when pressed for an explanation of his actions before he is arrested: "Demand me nothing. From this time forth I never will speak word." Following Othello's suicide, Cassio, now in charge, condemns Iago to be imprisoned and tortured as punishment for his crimes.
In Cinthio's tale, for example, the ensign suffers an unrequited lust for the Moor's wife, Desdemona, which then drives his vengeance.
Desdemona dies in an entirely different manner in Cinthio's tale; the Moor commissions his ensign to bludgeon her to death with a sand-filled stocking.Iago is one of Shakespeare's most sinister villains, often considered such because of the unique trust that Othello places in him, which he betrays while maintaining his reputation for honesty and dedication.Shakespeare contrasts Iago with Othello's nobility and integrity.Fred West contends that Shakespeare was not content with simply portraying another “stock” morality figure, and that he, like many dramatists, was particularly interested in the workings of the human mind.Thus, according to West, Iago, who sees nothing wrong with his own behaviour, is “an accurate portrait of a psychopath”, Bradley writes that Iago "illustrates in the most perfect combination the two facts concerning evil, which seem to have impressed Shakespeare the most", the first being that "the fact that perfectly sane people exist in whom fellow-feeling of any kind is so weak that an almost absolute egoism becomes possible to them", with the second being "that such evil is compatible, and even appears to ally itself easily, with exceptional powers of will and intellect".The Moor is arrested, transported from Cyprus to Venice, and tortured, but refuses to admit his guilt.He is condemned to exile; Desdemona's relatives eventually execute him.According to Babcock, it is not malice, but fear, that drives Iago.For, "Iago dates his maturity, as he considers it, his ability to understand the world, from the age at which he recognized every remark to be personally pointed.The ensign escapes any prosecution in Desdemona's death, but engages in other crimes and dies after being tortured.Iago is a soldier who has fought beside Othello for several years, and has become his trusted advisor.