It is generally said that Iago is one of the very creative, imaginative characters in Shakespeare, because of the way he so ably manipulates the people around him. But I disagree.

Of course, there are many types of creativity, and it would be impossible to deny that Iago is creative in some ways. His gift for improvisation, for example, is marvelous. But is he especially creative as compared to some of the other great characters in the Shakespearian canon? I have to say, I don’t think so.

Iago’s language is distinctly lacking in imaginative qualities. His mind is mired in very simple, straightforward imagery. Let’s look at part of Macbeth’s speech, when he is considering killing Duncan:

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind
(I.vii.21-25).

It’s rich in intense, fantastic imagery. Macbeth is creative enough to, for example, personify “pity” and compare it to something so imaginative as “a naked newborn babe, / striding the blast.”

What about Iago? Here’s a speech of his:

Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now
(II.iii.356-59).

Dry, uninteresting imagery. How overdone is it to compare an evil individual to the devil? Of course, this is but one example, but I cannot find a speech of Iago’s in which he is any more poetic.

But, as I said at the beginning, creativity comes in many forms. One might protest that Iago is not a poet, but his creativity in being able to manipulate people and use human nature is tremendous. No, not quite, says I. People tend to forget that Iago doesn’t have his whole plot laid out. He has to improvise. Take, for example, the scene in which Roderigo finally confronts Iago and demands repayment. Iago, if he is as clever and as good of a judge of human character as many say he is, should have seen this coming. And yet, he has no prepared response. It isn’t until Roderigo threatens him that Iago even attempts an answer.

So what’s so creative about Iago? Can anyone defend this position to me?

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