The Motivation of Iago
William Shakespeare’s Othello is a story based on betrayal, jealousy, hate and revenge. The villain in the play, Iago, is said to be one of Shakespeare’s most evil characters. On a search for power, nothing is going to stand in his way. His actions throughout the play are a direct result of his trying to attain what he believes is rightfully his. Iago’s mean and insensitive manipulation is geared towards the innocent and ends up causing the destruction of Roderigo, Cassio, Desdemona, Emilia, and Othello. Iago’s ability to navigate human nature and use it to his own benefit is the tool that helps makes him evil. Jealousy is the center of this play with Iago's jealousies and own weaknesses being the main motivation for his exposing others’ flaws to destroy them.
Iago’s motivation is clear right from the start of the play. “As early as the sixth line of the first scene of the first act this motive is predicated as basic data for the action which follows. Roderigo says to Iago: “Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in they hate.” Iago answers: “Despise me, if I do not.” (McCloskey 25). Iago is expecting to be promoted to lieutenant by Othello; however, it is Cassio that ends up with the promotion:
“One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damned in a fair wife,
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the devision of a battle knows,
More than a spinster, unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the togged consuls can propose
As masterly as he.” (Shakespeare 1.1.20-26).
Iago is upset and feels betrayed by Othello’s choice to promote Cassio instead of him, considering his many years of loyal service. He essentially feels that his military career has been useless since he is being replaced by someone so inexperienced. With this betrayal, Iago has an excuse to hold a grudge against Othello and based on his jealousy, he has also been given a reason to become hostile towards Cassio.
Another reason Iago does not...