February 20, 2012
In Shakespeare’s Othello, the main antagonists Iago, starts off from being simply jealous, to turning revengeful and obsessive, making perversive decisions for his need of power and control. Critic A.C. Bradley suggests that this longing to satisfy power is Iago’s main motivation and driving force for his acts and behaviour throughout the play.
The chief reason for Iago’s vindictiveness is that Othello chose Cassio over Iago to make him his Lieutenant. Iago feels rejected and despised, he is very bitter towards Othello who downgraded his service and experience in favour of the arithmetic skills that Cassio has. Because Iago’s career path is blocked by a mere lack of paper qualification he first begins to start developing feelings of revenge on Cassio who stole his job. It is also quickly established that Iago is the master of masks. He appears to be “honest Iago” to his fellow citizens but at the end of his soliloquy in Act 1, he himself confesses, “I am not what I am” (1.1.66). Iago appears to be nice, friendly and the perfect citizen but in reality he is the master who likes to pull all the strings and he quickly establishes a net of intrigues and lies around him and his environment in order to satisfy the craving of power. Tied in with the jealousy he feels towards Cassio is the racial hatred towards Othello. The main antagonist appears very respectful and every grateful, “loyal” servant in his commanders presence but very quickly switches tune as soon as Othello is gone from the stage, showing s his “true” feelings towards the moor. Early on in the play he explains this mask to Roderigo, a man who seeks advice from Iago. “Others there are / [w]ho, trimm’d in forms and visages of duty, / keep yet their heart attending on themselves, [a]nd throwing but shows of service on their lords. / Do well