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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge believes the character of Iago reveals 'the motive hunting of motiveless malignancy.' What motivates the character of Iago?

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Introduction

Samuel Taylor Coleridge believes the character of Iago reveals 'the motive hunting of motiveless malignancy.' What motivates the character of Iago? In this essay I will be looking at what motivates Iago's character from different approaches from sociological perspectives such as the Marxist perspective, the feminist perspective and structuralism, and from a historical or generic standpoint. I will also be looking at the text, including schools of critical theory. Iago is in almost every respect the very direct opposite of Othello. Where Othello is open and straightforward, Iago is not only crooked in all his dealings but also actually reveals in his crookedness. Where Othello judge's men by his own high motives and standards, to Iago men are no more than animals upright. Above all, while love is the soul and centre of Othello's world, without which 'chaos is come again' (3.3.92), Iago lives, moves and has his being in a world of pure hatred. Iago, unlike Othello, is seen as the villain, he is a master manipulator of people and gets the other characters in the play to do just what he wants. He has no typical motive for what he does, such as revenge, as he doesn't really care about the outside world and its revolutions he only cares about the power he uses or can use. ...read more.

Middle

is tupping (his) white ewe (Desdemona)."(1.1.85-86) From a historical or generic standpoint, looking at Iago as a character, in specifically Renaissance drama, who possesses elements of the Malcontent and the Machiavellian, being or acting in accordance with the principles of government in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described, this is characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty. This aspect of Iago's character comes from the ideas of the Italian political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli. He claims that 'he is concerned not with what men, particularly rulers of states, ought to be or were supposed to be, but with what they actually are, that is, with the rules that actually govern political behaviour'. In England, and particularly in the drama, this 'political realism' led to the creation of 'Machiavellian characters' whose only real criterion of action was convenience and self interest, but who, to achieve their aims, had to dissemble their real motives and appear to be open, honest and virtuous. Othello can also be seen as a woman's tragedy, which happens because of male insecurities and male constructions of sexuality. Women are marginalized, abused and silenced in the play and Desdemona is literally silenced (her voice 'smothered' at the end of the play). ...read more.

Conclusion

Iago says that jealousy is an affective judgement, which completely corrupts their lives because it causes Iago to show his true self, which in turn triggers Othello to undergo an absolute conversion that destroys the lives of their friends. Iago, who is "most honest" in the eyes of his companions, is, in fact, truly the opposite. In conclusion it is unclear what motivates Iago to wreck Othello's love for Desdemona. Whether from jealousy, cruelty, boredom, or the desire to control other people, Iago turns Othello against Desdemona by suggesting that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Although Desdemona is innocent of any crime, and Iago has no evidence to bring against her, he manages to convince Othello that he has been cheated on. Iago plays on this difference in the first scene, using racist language to suggest that Othello and Desdemona's love is like two animals having sex, because of their different races. Iago is an egotistical man whose self-esteem is hurt. His ability to conceal his true thoughts enables him to plot his revenge. Iago has clear and focused motives and reasons for his actions. Numerous motives ranging from jealousy, hatred, to an injured pride are the driving forces, which helps Iago with his actions. Numerous motives ranging from jealousy, hatred, to an injured pride are the driving forces, which helps Iago with his actions. Iago is a complex character that can never be fully understood for even he says, "I know not what I am"(1.1.62). Alison Ignacio 1 ...read more.

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