gentleman, that he be able to do more than fight well. He had to present himself in a genteel fashion in polite society, which probably meant that you didn’t go around using ‘sblood in public. Iago could hardly have presented himself as a gentleman. At line 7 Iago says three great men of the city off- capped to him, that is took their hats off as a sign of respect to Othello and pleaded with him to give Iago the job. At line 11 Iago accuses Othello of putting his own pride foremost rather than the justice of giving Iago the job he deserved. At line 12, Othello was not simple and direct in his response to the great ones’ request; he used bombast or fancy military jargon to put them off. Instead he gave the job to Cassio. The first problem is that he is a foreigner, from the rival city of Florence rather than Venice. Secondly he has little practical experience in the field; Iago calls him an arithmetician, someone who has studied war in the classroom. (You could change the names a little, but the same objections might be heard in a personnel office in a modern business.) Third, at line 18, a fellow almost damned in a fair wife seems to mean that either Shakespeare started out making Cassio a married man but then forgot, or else simply suggests that Cassio is a lady-killer, destined to get in trouble because of it. At line 28 Iago gives us the fourth and most devastating attack on Cassio, he is a counter-caster, an accountant who lacks the experience or passion for being a soldier. At lines 26 – 28 Iago argues that he should have gotten the job because Othello had seen him in many different battles, against both Christian and heathen enemies. But instead he is now, like a sailing ship that loses its wind, belee’d and calmed by the guy with the adding machine. Iago says he must remain his Moorship’s ancient. This is a kind of putdown: normally Iago would have said “His Lordship,” but he makes Othello’s ethnic background, as a Moor, the most important thing about him. At line 32 Iago blames the whole system of advancement in the army which has replaced seniority, old gradation, with a personal preference, affection, or who you know. Of course, Iago has used the same argument to further his case, in getting the three great ones of the city to plead for him. (Once again we see how this employment issue is not that different from what we experience today.) Iago makes a pretty compelling case that he had reasonable expectations to get the advancement. When Roderigo challenges Iago to explain why he continues to serve under Othello, at line 37, he responds with a detailed explanation of his plot to get revenge and advance himself. It recalls that theme of Italian duplicity that I described back in the introduction. In this speech at lines 38 – 62 Iago
prepares us for a number of later developments in the play. When he says at line 39 that he follows Othello to serve my turn upon him, this is not a good thing. At lines at 41 following he describes the “good” servant, a duteous and knee-crooking knave. Someone who is always bowing and bending his knees is said to dote on his own obsequious bondage, slaves who are in love with their own slavery.