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Literature / I, Iago

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They called me "honest Iago" from an early age, but in Venice, this is not a compliment. It is rebuke. One does not prosper by honesty.
Iago Soranzo, "Prologue"

I, Iago by Nicole Galland is a punished fanfic of Shakespeare's Othello. The first half of the book ("Before") starts with Iago as a boy, and follows him through to minutes before the action of Othello begins. The second half ("After") deals with the events of the play.

Since childhood, Iago has been naturally blunt and honest. Unfortunately for him, he is living in Renaissance Venice, in a culture that's not big on honesty. As a child, his honesty is discouraged by his cold father. As a young man, his honesty is delighted in, and seen as an exotic novelty. He is so well known for it, that by the time he starts lying, people believe him unquestioningly.


This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Iago's father had always hold a disdainful attitude towards his son's purpose and goal and never shown any pride for his accomplishments, at least, not before him.
    Iago: But since he never outright approved of anything about me, I wondered how he would manage to express his approval in a disapproving manner.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the play by Shakespeare, the motives for Iago's actions are unknown, although possible ones includes: envy, resentment, racism, for fun ; in the book Iago's plan for Othello is primarily motivated by his insecurity and the fact that Othello, whom he considers to be his closest friend, broke his trust by promoting Cassio instead of him. Also, Iago isn't an emotional abuser to Emilia like he is in the play. Moreover, at the end of the book Iago recognises that the justifications he tried to make along the way are no excuse, and he is horrified at the realization of what he has done.
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  • Being Good Sucks: Iago's honesty makes him an attraction among the good people of Venice, and this same quality made his father ashamed of him.
  • The Charmer: Michele Cassio flirts with all the women he meets, but not on purpose. Flirting is just kind of his default setting.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Iago.
  • Evil Feels Good: The more Iago manipulates people, the more he likes the thrill of the power it gives him.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Iago proposes to Emilia the night after he meets her. Subverted, because she says no for now... but that if he still wanted to marry her once they knew each other, he should ask again. Double Subverted, because he keeps it up and they're engaged in about 4 more days.
    Emilia: If having gotten to know me with any kind of depth—having a passing acquaintance with my face, for example—you still feel compelled to make such a suggestion... proposition me then.
  • Loving a Shadow: In one of their first encounters, Emilia sees Iago is doing this to her, and they then Discuss the trope.
    Iago: You are a perfect human being.
    Emilia: No, I'm not, Iago, do not saddle me with such an impossible responsibility!
    Iago: May I enjoy the illusion of your perfection at least for this evening?
    Emilia: Only if you promise not to punish me when you realize I'm not.
    Iago: Do you think I would do that?
    [She gives him a long, appraising look.]
    Emilia: [frankly] Yes, I think it is a possibility in you. Just as you were punishing yourself for not being my perfect wooer, and just as you punish others with harsh words when they displease you—I think you have the capacity to be harsh to me when I fall off the pedestal you're trying very hard to put me on.
    Iago: I promise not to put you on a pedestal.
    Emilia: [patiently] Iago, you already have.
  • Masquerade Ball: They attend numerous such fetes during Carnival. It is Venice after all.
  • The Matchmaker: Emilia is this for Othello and Desdemona. Because it's Renaissance Venice, they would not be allowed to just hang out and talk without a chaperone. Emilia serves as such, then distracts herself, giving them a space to get to know each other. It's really a pretty Downplayed Trope, but Iago sees it as an Exaggerated Trope.
    Othello: Your wife is craftier than you know, Iago. Sometimes at parties and fetes she has been the chaperone for Desdemona and I to speak together. We have had more of a chance to come to know each other than—
    Iago: Emilia?
    Othello: Yes, Emilia. [smiles] It is not a regular courtship, there is certainly nothing untoward. But, for instance, there was a dance at the senator's dinner party, do you recall? And we three stood together away from the dancers. She stood between us, but then deliberately turned her attention to some painting on the wall. She gave us a chance to have more conversation than we could at Brabantio's table. And she has done similarly at other gatherings.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Numerous people think Othello and Emilia are a couple. It really gets under Iago's skin.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: It's the story of Iago becoming the Manipulative Bastard we all know.
  • Serial Romeo: Every time Iago sees Roderigo, Roderigo is infatuated with some new girl.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Iago learns he's been made an officer a few hours after he learns his father has died, and he says it would've meant a lot more to him if his father had lived long enough to know about it.

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