I, Iago

Written by Nicole Galland
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

How do you take one of literature’s most vile villains and make your readers like him? Nicole Galland begins in his childhood and lets him tell the story. Iago was a rarity because he always told the truth, earning him little acclaim among Venice’s duplicitous and superficial society. With friend Rodrigo, Iago sometimes developed schemes to embarrass and expose the lies of various Venetian noblemen. Iago’s father forced him into the military, where Iago was skillful and where his knack for honesty finally earned him respect. He fell deeply in love and married Emilia, a woman both beautiful and intelligent, and who knew how to help him advance in his career. Iago became an officer and, because of his hard work and honest ways, earned the respect of General Othello, becoming the moor’s best friend and right hand.

When Othello began to woo Desdemona, with the help of Emilia and new officer and interloper Cassio, I found myself wondering how Iago would be able to narrate and explain the tragic events that I knew must follow. Did Shakespeare misunderstand? Had Iago behaved well and gotten a bad rap? Or would this character I’d learned to love turn on his friends? How could that happen?

I won’t tell you here, because you must read this astonishing, insightful, fabulously conceived and gripping story. Galland gives a depth and richness to the characters that would make Shakespeare jealous. I, Iago is a tasty, meaty novel that will have you hoping there is a plan for Galland to write about all of Shakespeare’s villains—and heroes too. Highly recommended.