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Iago: Motivated Motiveless Malignity

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"Though in the trade of war I have slain men,/Yet do I hold it very stuff o' the conscience/To do no contriv'd murder..." (Othello, I ii 1-3). While Iago claims that he could commit no murder, it is made clear to any reader that while he physically does not outwardly do any harm any character under the presumed pretense of murder that he has indeed brought about the death of two characters, and, in the case of Roderigo, has murdered under the pretense of aiding Cassio. While "Coleridge comments on [Iago's] "motiveless malignity" (Gilchrist 1), any two year-old can see that he is chock-full of motive, though admittedly it would take a more advanced mind to more completely understand the depth of his motives. Motives aside, Iago is one of the more likable characters in Othello.

Iago, villain of villains, is initially portrayed as a very jealous and spiteful man (Othello, I i 8-33), a man of "open and palpable villainy (Bloom 56), and throughout the play, the reader's view of him does not change dramatically if at all. This is a very good thing for the average reader of today; today's reader prefers a more static character (mentally, not intellectually) for as time passes people become more and more afraid of change. This fear of change often allows for a more well-defined relationship between the reader and the static character. If a reader can identify with a character, she or he is more liable to be fond of the character; even if the character is evil, the reader will be more apt to "love to hate" the character due to its constancy.

Constancy is a word that can define the character and the motives of Iago quite satisfactorily. His motives, or one could say motive in singular, remain the same: revenge. He wants revenge for not having received the promotion to Lieutenant that he, at least in his own mind, so rightly deserved. This one desire to reap vengeance upon those involved in this discredit to his abilities forces Iago to remain constant in his personality as well. His personality affects his actions; his actions, the lives of everyone around him.

Iago's effect on all he encounters is evident at all times. Roderigo admits in Act I Scene i lines 1-3 that Iago has a hold on his purse strings, and this possession remains constant throughout the course of the play. Iago convinces Roderigo to sell his land in order to make money; the money will be going to Iago. Iago affects Brabantio as well, being able to manipulate him into upsetting the marriage between Othello and Desdemona. After many failed attempts to convince Cassio to continue drinking wine he eventually succeeds, showing his effect on Cassio; this continued wine-drinking brings about a war of words that loses Cassio his title, exactly as Iago had planned. Iago sows the seeds of doubt of Desdemona's faithfulness in Othello, and thus is able to manipulate any situation to "prove" that she is indeed being unfaithful in her vows.

I do not see the above characters to be stupid, with perhaps the exception of Roderigo, however I just realize that Iago is just far wiser than they. Iago's intellect is evident throughout the course of the



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