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Othello – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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Othello - Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge presented his view on the personality of the most complex character in "Othello" and, arguably the most complex character in Shakespearean Tragedy, Iago, as "the motive hunting of motiveless malignity". This, in itself, is a rather complex assessment, which may be interpreted in more than one way. At the immediate outset, it is worth attempting to define Coleridge's statement. On a simplistic level, the quotation can be perceived to imply that Iago does not have a motive, but desperately wants and seeks to obtain a motive. He commits acts of evil, solely for the sake of evil. Coleridge seems to shed doubt upon the motives of Iago for his actions, dismissing them as evidence of "motiveless malignity". According to Coleridge, Iago's reasons for his actions, namely that Othello overlooked him for the post of lieutenant and his claim that Othello had a secret liaison with Emilia, his mistress ("twixt my sheets.... Done my office"), are unclear, inappropriate and very much half-hearted. Iago admits his resentment of Cassio's "daily beauty in his life/ That makes me ugly". This feeling of inferiority may act as a point of motivation. The achievements and status of everyone around him could quite easily as a trigger for him. ...read more.


In my opinion, to a large degree, Iago is one of Shakespeare's most inexplicable characters. Most people, even the most notorious criminals, are deterred from evil for fear of consequence. The characteristic of fear of punishment is absent in Iago. Upon the revelation of his wicked plot, Iago says that he will "never speak word". He has neither desire nor intention to defend himself. There is thus an enigma surrounding this complex individual. But, I think we have to be careful when we go as far as to define Iago as a psychopath. For such an association, I believe we require further evidence. Iago receives a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment out of the psychological destruction of humans, evidence of sheer malicious pleasure. He refers to his tempting of Othello as a "sport". As his evil plotting unfolds, "pleasure and action make the hours seem short". With Cassio, Iago's desire is to not only "get his place", of which he feel denied, but also satisfy his will, or, as he himself puts it, "to plume up my will". Iago's life is ultimately empty, as he is disassociated with human nature. It is certainly not hyperbolic to term him a "psychological sadist". ...read more.


We are presented with further evidence that Iago has motives for his malignity. At the outset, in his exchanges with Roderigo, Iago comments, "Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago". This seems to suggest that his primary motive is jealousy. I interpret his words to mean that, if he were the Moor, or even a close associate of the Moor, he would not be inclined to commit evil deeds. He goes on to describe his "peculiar end", suggesting that, whatever it may be, he does have an end, a motive. Iago states that his "cause is hearted". The word "cause" would seem to suggest the existence of a motive. If we scrutinise the evidence in detail, we can see that Iago seeks revenge. The word "revenge" is defined in the following way: "vengeance for wrongs or injury received" (REF: Oxford English Dictionary). The fact that Iago seeks "revenge" would seem to imply, by mere definition of the word, that he does have a motive. He feels wronged. He also wishes to even himself with Othello, "wife for wife"- another potential motive. Iago tells us, "I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat". His sexual jealousy and his shame of being cuckolded are so great that he refuses to mention this to Rodrigo. This tells us that Iago is a man of immense pride. ...read more.

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