• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Coleridge said that Iago was a "motiveless malignity". In light of this comment explore the character of Iago using other critics' ideas. Othello.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Coleridge said that Iago was a "motiveless malignity". In light of this comment explore the character of Iago using other critics' ideas. Coleridge's intended meaning in this statement was that, when Iago began his scheme-making, he had no idea of what he aimed to achieve by them. It is obvious to anyone who has seen the play that Iago is a malignity: badly intentioned. What is less obvious is why. In Iago's first soliloquy he says of the suspicion he has about Othello having had an affair with his wife that: "I know not if't be true; Yet I will do as if for surety" This is the usual basis for the argument that Iago is pure evil and sets out only to do general harm and cause chaos. In this soliloquy he proves that his given "motives" or aims are frail. The suggested reasons for Iago's actions range from the idea that Emilia has been adulterous with Othello, to the idea that she has been adulterous with Cassio; it is sometimes hinted at that he has a lustful eye for Desdemona. The critic A.C. Bradley dismisses these suggestions as "the usual lunacies". This makes sense to me as there is as little evidence to support any of these ideas. ...read more.

Middle

John Goodwin says "Iago is an enigma; his motives seem inadequate to the tragic conclusion yet watching, one is seldom conscious of this". On the contrary I think many of his reactions are ill thought-out and impulsive- for example in killing Emilia he proves at least one of three points. The first is that he is, after all is said, the thoroughly cold, detached character he is painted as. The second and third possibilities are that his scheme is flawed (his main plan of action at least by the end of the play seems to be to eliminate those who 'know too much') or that he is in a completely loveless marriage. This must be viewed through an Elizabethan rather than a modern perspective. It seems to me that, as often was the case that Iago and Emilia's marriage acts only to serve a physical and practical purpose. This seems to be mutually acknowledged between the couple. In a Royal Exchange production of the play Emilia is portrayed as a womanly, worldly-wise character that shows signs of being the only character in the play that is not blind to Iago's schemes. In response to this the Royal Exchange Iago seems nervous around his wife and appears rather pathetic in his cries of "filth thou liest", when she reveals his lies in the last scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is in this soliloquy that Iago's language incriminates him as depraved, not just by intention but by nature. He shows a certain cynicism, if not disregard for religion-"her (Desdemona's) appetite shall play the God". He also seems to pride himself on the wickedness of his actions by way of comparing them to that of demonic beings- "When devils will their blackest sins put on they do suggest with heavenly sins as I do now". By this I feel it is not Shakespeare's intention to implicate Iago as a symbol or personification of the devil, but to portray, what the critic Bloom calls a "nihilistic personality"- definitely ill-intentioned, but still nevertheless human. "So-called motives are merely justifications for his actions (which he sadistically enjoys)". Still, we can see how an alternative meaning can be extrapolated when Iago rephrases St.Paul's "By the grace of God I am what I am" into his decidedly elusive "I'm not what I am" it is easy to see how to be non-religious, especially in more religion based societies of previous centuries, was something to keep to yourself. I think that this in itself could be a reason why Iago was driven to the secretive and begrudging behaviour he demonstrates. For anyone to renounce religion and God even so subtly was seen as evil in itself- they would be instantly labelled a 'malignity' ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Othello essays

  1. Is Othello a 'noble hero' brought down by 'a devil of motiveless malignity' or ...

    Iago proclaims his hatred in Act 1 Scene 1 " Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains". Yet even this is a bit of a feeble reason to do such diasatourous deeds as Iago commits. Another possible motive could be that according to Iago only, Othello is alleged to have slept with Iago's wife.

  2. "The motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" was Coleridge's comment on the Iago soliloquies. Evaluate ...

    but partly led to diet my revenge". It is interesting that unlike the source, Shakespeare chooses to make his Ensign's (Iago's) love for Desdemona serve as a catalyst for destroying Othello, rather than Desdemona herself. Also, this love for Desdemona is mentioned only once and is one of a number of motives mentioned by Iago throughout the play.

  1. Othello – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

    It would be an injustice to Iago if we dismiss his motive when we have no evidence with which we can disprove it. Iago has a great deal more military experience than Cassio, and would naturally feel aggrieved if Cassio were promoted over him.

  2. "The motive hunting of a motiveless malignity" (Coleridge). Is this a fair assessment of ...

    He wants to upset them as much as he can. In Act One, Scene One he manages to accomplish this by waking Brabantio to tell him that his daughter, Desdemona has run off with Othello without his consent. Iago stirs up the situation and then leaves everybody to panic.

  1. "A mysterious creature of unlimited cynicism" Explore the character of Iago in the light ...

    "Othello's mind, for all its poetry, is very simple. He is not observant" BRADLEY It is this alone that allows him the leeway in which he can organize and carry out the acts of villainy that strife this play. The character undoubtedly commits a series of crimes against his fellow peers, some which lead to death.

  2. Iago himself offers many explanations for his behaviour during the play, none of them ...

    (A1, Si, L19) In this exchange with Roderigo we also learn of the devious nature of Iago since he is prepared to give the outward appearance of following Othello merely to suit his own ends. He explains to Roderigo 'In following him, I follow but myself.

  1. Coleridge famously describes the analysis of Iago as "the motive hunting of a motiveless ...

    concern towards Emilia, thus insinuating that he is not really anxious about the fact that she could be having an affair: "It is a common thing...to have a foolish wife." The much admired literary critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge dismisses the suggestion that Iago has just reasoning behind his insufferable malice and unforgivable cruelty.

  2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge believes the character of Iago reveals 'the motive hunting of motiveless ...

    At other times he expresses the same motive with such virulence that we feel he is trying to convince himself, to build himself up for action, 'For that I do suspect the lusty moor...till I am evened with him, wife for wife.'

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work