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Iago, in the play Othello, is a very intriguing villain. He has all the qualities of a perfect villain. He is a liar and he steals on the pretext of helping.

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Introduction

The Character of Iago "The last Speech, the motive-hunting of motiveless Malignity--how awful! In itself fiendish--while yet he was allowed to bear the divine image, too fiendish for his own steady View.--A being next to Devil--only not quite Devil--& this Shakespeare has attempted-- executed--without disgust, without Scandal!" - Samuel Coleridge (Lectures 1808-1819 On Literature 2: 315) Iago, in the play Othello, is a very intriguing villain. He has all the qualities of a perfect villain. He is a liar and he steals on the pretext of helping. And most important of all, he uses his manipulative nature to exploit other people's greatest vulnerabilities in order to destroy them. But what sets him apart from the typical immoral villain is that he is amoral and has no fixed motives for his actions as such. Iago is a classic two-faced villain, with no motives for his crimes other than to "plume up his will," (1.3.375). His soliloquies are, as appropriately stated by Coleridge above, merely the "motive-hunting of motiveless malignity." Throughout the play, Iago stumbles upon motives to justify his actions. Possible motives put forth by Iago are failure to be promoted, jealousy, sexual infidelity, lust for Desdemona and racism. Despite these many given reasons and motives, he in fact has no real motive at all. Iago is driven by his nature of character, that of being evil. ...read more.

Middle

Towards the end, when questioned by Othello as to why he committed such acts, Iago replies, "Demand me nothing; what you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word," (5.2.300). Even at the time of his death, he does not admit to being evil and revealing his motives. He has had unclear motives throughout the play and this is emphasised with his unclear answer to Othello's question. Iago's main argument for his destruction of Othello is that he believes that "twixt the sheets he's [Othello] done my office," (1.3.369), showing an instance of infidelity in Emilia. Although this is a very far-fetched claim, Iago nonetheless finds reason enough in it to form hatred for Othello. In his second soliloquy, he again suggests that "the lusty Moor hath leaped into my [Iago] seat," (2.1.277). The image of the seat signifies duty and purpose. He feels like he is being robbed of his seat and is overthrown by Othello. The seat also suggests a character trait of Iago: that of being sexist. The idea of seat gives the sense of someone in control. His seat is his position of power over women, power over Emilia. Summing up his assumptions, Iago says, "I know not if't be true, Yet I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety," (1.3.370-372). ...read more.

Conclusion

When Othello learns of Iago as being the criminal, he stabs him but does not kill him, "If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee," (5.2.284). Othello does not kill Iago, he says that Iago is the devil, and the devil cannot be killed. This shows Iago as being the devil himself, and being justified in his motiveless pursuit of evil. Although Iago puts forth a number of reasons and motives such as failure to be promoted, jealousy, sexual infidelity, lust for Desdemona and racism, he is in fact motiveless. The arguments Iago gives are nothing more than justifications to himself and the other characters he confers with. Iago is a disturbing, ruthless and amoral character who does not make his moves with conscious reasoning, but only to inflict pain. When asked why, Iago's response is just as simple: "What you know, you know," (5.2.300). In conclusion, it seems that the vast range of increasingly questionable motives Iago gives in the first two acts of Shakespeare's Othello point not to a man with just cause for his malicious revenge, but to something far worse. Iago's machiavellian actions have very few real motives at all and those given are purely for the Devil's [Iago's] peace of mind. 1 Personal Conversation - Darren Wang, October 30, 2007 ?? ?? ?? ?? Rahul Ganji English A1 HL 1 ...read more.

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