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Consider the validity of Coleridge’s accusation of Iago as “motiveless malignity”. How might different audiences respond to Iago’s villainy?

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Introduction

Consider the validity of Coleridge's accusation of Iago as "motiveless malignity". How might different audiences respond to Iago's villainy? "Evil" is a word always associated with William Shakespeare's character Iago. However is branding this character simply "evil" too broad a term? Perhaps there is a more suitable accurate term to describe him by, but equally perhaps one could argue that Coleridge's term "motiveless malignity" is the only way Shakespeare's character Iago is depicted in the text. Iago throughout the play commits many atrocious acts. He is constantly manipulating people and trying to cause heartbreak and sorrow for others "Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight". He even goes as far as to force his wife to steal from her friend Desdemona "My wayward husband hath a hundred times Wooed me to steal it; but so she loves the token". If one were to look at Iago as a character in general then he definitely would not be one considered to have even a speck of righteousness or honour by any degree. Beginning with Act 1 Scene 3 one can see how many varied interpretations you could make of Iago. Throughout the scene Iago dismisses love's existence repeatedly "lusts whereof I take this that you call love", "Virtue? A fig". Iago suggests here that he does not think love really exists and if it does it is worthless. There are many conclusions that one could draw from this bleak view that Iago holds. A quite interesting view that could be held is that Iago is so quick to dismiss love for other people that perhaps this is only through jealousy, as he cannot experience love for himself. ...read more.

Middle

She gave it to him, and he hath given it is whore", he is not interested in his wife "Villainous whore". So perhaps he feels that it is a waste of time to bother himself with ideals such as love or friendship. Perhaps by the word honesty he means that where other people (such as Othello) "The moor is of free and open nature That thinks men honest that but seem to be so; And will as tenderly be lead by the nose as asses are" are prepared to go through life with "rose coloured shades" on thinking they are in love, Iago is aware enough to see through this to embrace the cold brutality of existence as he sees it. Perhaps then Iago could really feel that he possesses honesty in its purest sense; (the ability to see past the distractions of life which hide it's real natural cruelty). So perhaps what one could see as cruelty on the part of Iago is infact just honesty in its most base form. Despite that flash of reasoning behind Iago's insane cruelty, once again in Iago's soliloquy at the end of the scene, Iago seems like Coleridge's "motiveless malignity". "Till I am even with him wife for wife". Iago wanting to punish Othello in kind for an act Iago even admits probably did not take place (Othello sleeping with his wife, that is Iago's not his own) highlights the truly evil traits that Iago possesses. This clear wish to hurt and punish is always clear with Iago "I have't! ...read more.

Conclusion

This concretes his evil persona as even in defeat he still gains crude victory over the other characters. His decision to remain silent can be seen as very significant. He could perhaps grovel or plead that it was all a misunderstanding, however he does not want to as one could argue, he does not care that he cannot ever speak to them again and his silence causes them pain anyway, he does not want to break silence in other words. This could prove that Iago is not indeed a "motiveless malignity" as if he were to have no motive, then this antagonising silence would not have come about. This silence is cold and calculated, being the only way Iago can face defeat and victory at the same time, as he enjoys watching the others suffer in his silence. So in conclusion, looking at the different ways you can interpret Iago from the text, one must certainly conclude that Iago is not a "motiveless malignity" as one can plainly see a motive of attaining joy from others' downfall, using evil, anubian deeds. The main difference between my interpretation and Coleridge's being that, whereas Coleridge believes that Iago has no motive for his evil, I believe that he does have a motive, which is gaining enjoyment from the misfortune of others. One could further this by saying that in the religious times in which the play was written, Shakespeare made Iago the ultimate evil force by making comparable to Satan himself. A summary of the plot, which hints truthfulness in this statement, is that; the play Othello is about Iago slowly luring Othello into temptation. RORY MILLER-CHEEVERS 6L1 ...read more.

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