Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Iago’s Motivation for Manipulating and Destroying Other Characters

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In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago is the most notorious villain. It is clear that Iago feels that other people’s lives that surround him are insignificant. He will use people as pawns signifying that he feels life is simply a game. Iago is very deceitful; he is capable of manipulating anyone who fits into his master plan. Considering Iago is such a phenomenal mastermind he can easily be compared to a director of a play this is because he finds any way possible to get exactly what he wants.

Iago’s capacity for cruelty seems limitless. Although Iago never reveals his motives for manipulating and destroying the lives of people he appears to care about, he demonstrates acts of hidden insecurities, deep resentment towards people, and feelings which influences him to desire to ruin their lives. Underneath Iago’s fearless facade lays numerous insecurities. Iago does not receive any genuine love from anyone. The lack of compassion in Iago’s life leads him to be to be profoundly resentful and cold hearted towards other people, love and even friendship.

He never lets his guard down for he feels he cannot trust anyone. Even though Iago is a married man, him and his wife Emilia are not in a loving relationship. Iago does not respect her or any other women. The lack of respect Iago has for women allows him to treat his wife unfairly and speak to her in a manner no man in love ever would. Iago will tell his wife to shut up when she is speaking her mind and feel no remorse for it. (4,2,140) Iago having an unsuccessful marriage has leaded him to believe that there is no such difference between love and lust.

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Iago sees love as a useless emotion that makes you lose control and will ruin you. Iago proves this when he says: “If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise Another of sensuality, the blood and bareness of Our natures would conduct us to most prepost’rous Conclusions. But we have to cool our raging Motions, our carnal strings or unbitted lusts, Whereof I take this that you call love to be a sect or scion. ” (Shakespeare 1. 3. 321-328) Iago is convinced women and men are only capable of having physical attractions to each other not genuine love, similar to his own marriage. 1. 3. 303) Iago has no compassion for people in love therefore it is easy for him to manipulate Othello to destroy his marriage between him and his wife Desdemona. Iago’s resentment towards Othello goes deeper than believing his marriage with Desdemona is a sham. Iago heard a rumor that his wife Emilia had an affair with Othello. Iago believed this rumor with no doubt about it because of his insecurities within his marriage, even though Emilia Denys it. Emilia stresses her argument: EMILIA. O fie upon them! Such squire he was

That turn’d your wit the seamy side without And made you to suspect me with the Moor. IAGO. You are a fool, go to. (Shakespeare 4. 2. 144-147) Regardless of the possibility of Othello’s innocence, Iago continues motive hunting. Iago sees this as a perfect opportunity to have a solid reason for hating Othello. Whether Iago knows the real truth or not is insignificant because it would not change how he feels about Othello. Othello has been a victim of racism from the beginning of the play. (1. 1. 112-114) Iago is a racist toward Othello being a dark skinned man, a “moor”.

Iago resents Othello based on his race; it contributes to the hatred Iago feels towards him. Iago’s words declare the severity of his hatred: “I hate the Moor. My cause is hearted; thine hath no/ less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him (Shakespeare 1. 3. 361-363). Othello is both a “Moor” and not even a Venetian man; therefore Iago looks down on Othello. Iago sees him as a worthless human being, someone whose life is free to be toyed with. Othello’s race is a motive for Iago to want to destroy his life because he simply hates the fact that he is a “Moor”.

Othello is the General, the leader of the Venetian armed forces. This means Othello is higher status among the Venetian forces than Iago is. Considering Othello is a “moor” as well as Iago’s boss, more resentment comes from Iago. Othello promoted Cassio to lieutenant over Iago, this made Iago irate with Othello considering they used to fight as soldiers together. Othello offends Iago numerous times, which motivates him to seek revenge on Othello. Although it isn’t Cassio’s fault he received the promotion, Iago’s jealousy drives him to sabotage Cassio.

Iago constructs a fight between Roderigo and Cassio by manipulating the both of them through lies and alcohol, which leads to Cassio loosing his position as lieutenant. (Shakespeare 2. 3. 142-155) Once Cassio had been dismissed the lieutenant job it was finally designated to Iago. Iago thanked Othello in the most peculiar way; he thanked him in a manner similar to saying vows: OTHELLO. Now art thou my Lieutenant IAGO. I am your own forever. (Shakespeare 3. 4. 475-476) Iago speaks to Othello using underhanded phrases similar to the way a wife converses with her husband.

Suggesting that Iago may have romantic feelings for Othello. Considering being a homosexual was not acceptable lifestyle in the sixteenth century, Iago would be sexually frustrated because women cannot satisfy him. This sexual frustration is a motive towards wanting to destroy the marriage between Othello and Desdemona. Iago having romantic feelings for Othello would explain why he put a substantial amount of effort into getting Desdemona out of the picture. Iago appears to be jealous of their relationship.

Iago’s motives are derived from very intense emotion, they are well planned and he ensures his revenge is executed. Iago’s insecurities and issues with people have motivated him to be incredibly deceitful, untrustworthy and incapable of positive emotions. Although Iago’s motivation for manipulating and destroying people’s lives is not revealed directly, he exposes it through his successful master plan. Shakespeare, William. The Tragoedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. Ed Alvin Kernan, General, Ed. Sylvan Barnet. First Signet Classics Printing (Second Revised Edition) April 1998.

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