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Perspectives On Shakespeare: Is Iago Gay In Othello? Are Love & Homosexuality The Underlying Driving Forces In The Bard’s Play?

IN WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S OTHELLO, Iago's motivation for plotting against the Moor is never clarified. Is he gay, and in love with the Moor, and therefore jealous of Othello's relationship with Desdemona? By Ben Arogundade. Mar.05.2021.

IS IAGO GAY? Kenneth Branagh as Iago and Lawrence Fishburne as Othello in the 1995 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play. Homosexuality is a theme both hinted at and explicitly referenced within the story. Is Iago gay, and motivated by jealousy, or does he simply enjoy being malevolent?

WHAT IS IAGO'S MOTIVATION for destroying the Moor in William Shakespeare’s play, Othello? The Bard offers two explanations within the text; first, that he was passed over for promotion in favour of his rival, lieutenant Cassio, and second, he believes that Othello has slept with his wife Emilia in the past, although he offers no grounds for his suspicions. Iago’s motive is rendered deliberately fuzzy by Shakespeare, encouraging the reader to interpret it as they wish.


IAGO'S HOMOSEXUALITY?

One such interpretation within the analysis is that Iago is motivated by jealousy of Othello’s love for Desdemona, and is maddened by a repressed homosexual desire. There is a hint of this in Act 3, Scene 3, as Iago, pledging his loyalty to his general, tells Othello, “I am your own forever”. Iago’s chosen word’s perhaps express more than soldierly devotion, and possess a distinctly romantic tone not too dissimilar to the language of a marriage vow.


There is also a clear sexual undertone within Iago’s implied relationship with Cassio. When he informs Othello that he “lay with Cassio lately”, we wonder whether this is as soldiers in the barracks in adjacent beds, or as gay lovers. On both occasions such language goes unchallenged by Othello, as if their occurrence is part of the everyday vernacular within the life of a soldier.


WOMAN HATER

Iago’s supposed gay attraction to both Othello and Cassio is given additional weight by the indifference and contempt with which he regards his wife Emilia, and indeed women in general within the play— a component of Iago’s psychologically twisted personality and dark cynicism. His hardcore misogyny becomes a springboard for assumptions of a latent homosexuality, although this in itself is less conclusive, as equally, the play’s heterosexual men also show contempt for females.


IAGO GAY IN OTHELLO PRODUCTIONS

These aspects of Iago’s character began to be explored in different theatre productions beginning in the early 20th century. In 1938 at London's Old Vic, Laurence Olivier played Iago as gay, as did David Suchet for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985, and Sir Ian McKellen in 1989.

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ABOUT ME

Hi there. I am a London-based author and publisher, specialising in fiction, non-fiction and online journalism. Discover more about me and my latest projects, at Ben Arogundade bio.

THEIR DARK WORLD: Stars of critically acclaimed TV show The Wire, Clarke Peters and Dominic West, starred in the Crucible Theatre production of William Shakespeare's Othello in 2011. (Photo by Hugo Glendinning).

*SHAKESPEARE, IAGO & HOMOSEXUALITY - ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH


500

The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Iago gay?”, each month.


1,000

The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Was Shakespeare gay?”, each month.


*All figures for “Shakespeare, Iago & Homosexuality - According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

KENNETH BRANAGH AS IAGO - ‘I HATE THE MOOR’

More About William Shakespeare

Did Shakespeare smoke marijuana?
Lawrence Fishburne as Shakespeare's Othello

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