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Othello Essay- Iago’s Motives

Othello (by William Shakespeare) is a tragic story; the play is based on the theory that love is meaningless unless physical attraction is partnered with trust. It also questions some factors of human nature; the inconsistency of judging intentions plays a crucial part in the downfall of the lead character with whom the title of the play is shared. Iago is the proprietor of the carnage; he oversees the destruction of five characters (Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Emelia and Rodrigo) and controls their views on each other. He deems the lives of the aforementioned characters as insignificant and treats them like pawns to meet his own ends. Throughout the play, his motives remain shadowy; some of his reasons seem preposterous, classed as excuses for his actions.

Iago’s motives are of a great number; they appear in an erratic fashion (most frequently in his soliloquies ). Iago’s first major soliloquy gives us our first major insight into the reason for his heinous scheme. Iago starts by telling the audience how he finds additional funds. He has used his charm to ensnare Rodrigo into believing that Desdemona will fall out of love with Othello (Rodrigo is infatuated with her). He then says that he would not spend time with Rodrigo if it weren’t for his own ‘sport and profit’. Iago shows his ability to find insecurities in a person’s character; Roderigo is easily persuaded. Roderigo plays a major part in the fruition of Iago’s major plot- as Iago again clouds Roderigo’s mind with an unrealistic reward (leading to Roderigo’s death).

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Iago then channels his attention towards Othello, ‘the Moor’ (a derogatory term used for blacks). He has heard a rumour that Othello had sexual intercourse with his wife, it is just a rumour, but Iago would rather believe it was true through his nature. From this, the audience gets the first glimpse of Iago’s inner workings and his insecurities. Iago sees himself to be a surrogate of a man. Through his corrupt insight into what goes on around him, Iago believes that Cassio (whom he later claims had sex with his wife) and Othello attract attention from the opposite sex, which he himself does not receive. Cassio is of a type that easily woos a woman and is good looking, whilst Othello’s power and reputation make him seem attractive. Iago’s jealousy leads him to lose his sense of trust. This trait leads him to believe that certain innocent actions of other characters are, in a way mocking him. He thought that in this way, Cassio and Othello were trying to signify that he was impotent.

He then decides to take revenge on Cassio by using the appeal Cassio receives from women against him. Othello is insecure as he is a foreigner in a country of a different race and was born with a different religion. Iago using his wit, picks up on this. He insinuates the idea that Cassio being young, Venetian and handsome, is the perfect partner for Desdemona (which is also the belief of Brabantio, her father). Iago has no sense of trust due to the constitution of his character; in the last part of his soliloquy, he conspires to use Othello’s trust to accelerate his demise, ‘led by the nose as asses are’. Iago seems to resent the trust between Desdemona and Othello- there is no trust in Iago’s relationship with Emilia, so there is no love. This is another point of jealousy for Iago; he feels they are mocking him with their affections leading him to proclaim, ‘daily beauty makes me ugly’.

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He ends the soliloquy with a metaphor of his plan being a ‘monstrous birth’. Association can be made with Iago’s talk about hell and his use of words in the last couplet with his speech near the play’s ending, ‘You know what you know, from this time forth I will not speak a word’‘. He is then asked by Lodovico, ‘what not to pray?’. This shows certain evilness in him, as Christianity was widely practised at the time Othello was set. The whispers he corrupted Othello’s mind with and the way he manipulated the deeds of others to cause death to attribute him with characteristics of Satan. This leads to the point that there may have been no motive for Iago’s actions; he revelled in destroying the lives of others and believed himself to be of higher intelligence with a quicker wit than anyone else.

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Othello Essay- Iago's Motives. (2021, Sep 10). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from