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

"The motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" was Coleridge's comment on the Iago soliloquies. Evaluate this and other views of these and of Iago as a character in the play.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"The motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" was Coleridge's comment on the Iago soliloquies. Evaluate this and other views of these and of Iago as a character in the play. The phrase "the motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" occurs in a note that Coleridge wrote concerning the end of Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello in which Iago takes leave of Roderigo saying, "Go to, farewell. Put money enough in your purse", and then delivers the soliloquy beginning "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse". When evaluating Coleridge's view, it is important to put the word "motive" into context. We use it to mean an emotion, desire, a physiological need - an impulse that acts as an incitement to action. This definition equates "motive" and " impulse"; Coleridge, however, thought the two quite different. Here is what he wrote on the subject:- Iago is represented as now assigning one, and then another, and again a third motive for his conduct, alike the mere fictions of his own restless nature, distempered by a keen sense of his intellectual superiority, and haunted by the love of exerting power on those especially who are his superiors in practical and moral excellence. Thus Coleridge asserts that Iago's impulses are simply to carry out evil acts - he has an inner malignancy that drives his "keen sense of his intellectual superiority" and his "love of exerting power". And so Iago's malignity is "motiveless" because his motives - being passed over for promotion, his suspicion that Othello and later Cassio are having affairs with Emelia - are merely rationalisations for his impulses; his drive to do evil. ...read more.

Middle

This would of course be the undoing of the tragedy - nobody could pity Desdemona or Othello if they fell prey to an obvious villain. Shakespeare was obviously obsessed with Iago - he gave him more lines than any other character in his works. In Iago, he created a villain whose evil and treachery lie not in his motives, but rather in the lack thereof; by pledging himself to evil Iago becomes the "demi-devil" Othello speaks of in the last scene, yet by the endless quest for source or motive, Shakespeare makes his villain all the more sinister to the audience - he infused this devil with real human emotions. Shakespeare knew that the love of power and mischief is common to man, and he instilled it in Iago. To that he added more factors to further darken his character. Iago has no respect for human decency or human life - when Desdemona becomes a victim he shows no sign of remorse. He mocks Othello's trusting nature "And will as tenderly be led through the nose as asses are". He hates romantic love, deeming it a weakness - "Ere I would say, I would drown myself for the love of a guinea-hen, I would change my humanity with a baboon". He is loyal only to himself and, indeed, he is proud of it "were I the Moor, I would not be Iago, in following him I follow but myself. ...read more.

Conclusion

He seems to have a pathological jealousy of his wife, a suspicion of every man with whom she is associated and a jealous love of Desdemona. In this, Shakespeare has managed to combine the malignity of the villain's character with jealousy and envy to form the springs of Iago's conduct. These motives all spring from the same attitude to life - the self-love of which Iago boasts to Roderigo. Regardless of what motive we accept for Iago's behaviour, I contend that this villain was created by Shakespeare to explore the concept of self-love and the dangers it can bring. Whether it be an innate sense of evil, fuelled by "a keen sense of intellectual superiority"; ideas of professional revenge triggered by the proud "I know my price, I am worth no worse a place"; or an ardent sense of jealousy, all of Iago's behaviour is backed by an air of egotism and conceit. Perhaps Iago is Shakespeare's warning against the sin of vanity and envy, that which Francis Bacon described as "the vilest affection and the most depraves; for which cause, it is the proper attribute of the Devil". Since the play was first written, critics have worked to assign psychological motivation and grounding to the conundrum that is Iago. Yet perhaps the most satisfying conclusion that can be drawn is in the ambiguity and elusiveness of the character, and the questions that these in themselves raise about the nature of evil, of sins, and of the nature of mankind. For as Coleridge said, "How many among our modern critics have attributed to the profound Author this, the appropriate inconsistency of the character itself!" ...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. Marked by a teacher

    Is Iago The Perfect Villain?

    5 star(s)

    You could even argue that, at times, Iago knows even more than the audience, which is a trait of a true, compelling villain. We never know what face Iago is going to show next, never know what move he is going to make, partly helped by the fact that for long stretches of the play Iago is in "good" mode.

  2. Peer reviewed

    What is the significance of Iagos Soliloquies in Othello?

    3 star(s)

    This emphasises how manipulating Iago is. All in all, the first soliloquy shows Iago's character in a different light to what we see when he is with the other characters in the play. We see that Iago is obsequious, manipulative and extremely duplicitous, but also very clever.

  1. Peer reviewed

    How does Shakespeare create an effective villain through his presentation of Iago in the ...

    3 star(s)

    This, along with the fact that he has got the help of the devil, makes him even more evil in the face of his plans concerning Othello. By Act 2 Scene 1, you are able to see Iago's plan constantly broadening.

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

    It is only the lies that Othello seems to believe and this seems to be because Othello is uncomfortable with himself, it is only the lies that seem plausible to Othello because he fears the worst. Nearing the end of Act 3, scene 3 Othello has worked into a frenzy

  1. Othello and Coleridge

    However, Shakespeare is careful to show that Othello and Desdemona are in love and not just gratifying their basic desires, in Act 1 Scene 3 Desdemona reveals the depth of her love for Othello, "That I did love the moor to live with him...

  2. Othello - Examine the importance and effectiveness of Act III, scene 3, considering the ...

    By saying Cassio wouldn't sneak away from Othello, it implies that he would. Iago doesn't want to give too much away when talking to Othello for two reasons, Othello might become suspicious that Iago is up to something and secondly Iago doesn't want to seem like he is telling on a friend.

  1. 'Hell and Night must bring this Monstrous Birth into the World's Light.' How Successful ...

    (Act 1, sc 3, line 77-79) which gives Othello the opportunity to defend his actions which is not entirely what Iago wanted but Brabantio still ended up disfavouring the marriage. Consequently, Brabantio and Desdemona fall out, "I had rather to adopt a child than get it," (Act 1, sc 3, line 189).

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

    Iago is a perfect example of a racist person - Iago and Roderigo are both racist towards Othello and Cassio because they are foreigners and of course, Othello is black. Iago calls Othello "the Moor of Venice" and calls Othello the "moor" throughout the play.

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