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Othello - The motivation of Iago within the play is a matter that has divided critics ever since it was first performed.

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Nick Sutherland 13.06 English Lit - Mock Exam - Paper 1 OTHELLO: 1. The motivation of Iago within the play is a matter that has divided critics ever since it was first performed. There can be no doubt that there is at least a degree of evil in the actions of Iago. However, the view of S.T Coleridge is one that may be a little too extreme. In 1813, Coleridge stated that he perceived Iago to be "artful" in his manipulation of Othello and that Iago was a man whose intentions were "close to those of the devil". This view however conflicts with those of the majority, including those of F.R Leavis and W.H Auden. The thesis of Auden is one that is particularly worthy of further analysis. He appears to suggest that Iago is motivated to carry out his devious plots by his enjoyment of the consequences that they have on others. Following this line of argument, it could well be that Iago is somewhat akin to a child who pulls the wings of a fly. ...read more.


This is most certainly one source of motivation for Iago. The point discussed above demonstrates that Iago does not encompass a premeditated desire to commit acts of evil, but rather finds himself manipulated by circumstances that arise within the play itself. The criticism by F.R. Leavis, who contends that the power of Iago is "representative of something inside of Othello", is most interesting when considering the topic of manipulation. Othello is undoubtedly a character with many noticeable flaws. One of these is his acute insecurity. This is highlighted in any situation in which Othello feels he is being challenged or undermined, such as that where he suspects Desdemona of being unfaithful. Iago perhaps feels similarly undermined and challenged by the fact that Othello rejects him for promotion in favour of Cassio. Iago therefore possess a strong motive for revenge against Othello and appears to realise that the area he is most insecure about is his relationship with his wife. Iago then targets Desdemona. He comments that "the Moor is defective" in all the qualities that he will require in order to keep Desdemona. ...read more.


I believe that Iago is a character drawn to deviousness by an inherent desire for power. It could very well be suggested that his original motives become lost within the web of deceit that he creates. This is perhaps highlighted by his reaction to the request of Othello for a reason to explain his actions. Iago simply replies that they should "demand from him nothing" and should accept that "what they know, they know" and should not pursue him further. Although there might be a number of explanations for this refusal to part with information; i.e. the stubborn nature of Iago, it could simply be that Iago is unable to fathom exactly why he was motivated to pursue his objectives with such vigour. Aside from the reasons given above as to why Iago is not solely an agent of evil, I would cite his number of open soliloquies as a manner in which to prove that he does indeed possess a human aspect to his actions. I perceive Iago as a man who is driven to great lengths of evil by circumstances, and not as a cold-hearted villain. ...read more.

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