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Essay on Iago's Motives in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Iago's Motives in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


Iago, having the typical attributes of a Machiavelli character; seems to be inherently evil. He revels in his ability to dissemble and destroy. Defending himself through constant reassurances- Iago claims to disgrace Cassio because of his `daily beauty' and the fact that a `Florentine' who knows nothing about battles `more than a spinster' becomes lieutenant. This seems to outrage him- a spark that sets of the fire raging in his heart.

As a result, he fabricates an ingenious plan- one by one he would make everyone pay. He only needed the right moment; he gains his chance as they set sail to Cyprus- an island free from the orderly social and political scene of Venice. Iago would use this new and unfamiliar setting to attack. To attack he needed weapons- his best being his `honest' and cunning mind.

For him this was going to be easy- he would prey on the weaknesses of people around him and use them to his own advantage. This tactic of Iago's is extremely effective. He uses Roderigo, `whom love hath turned almost the wrong side out' to `put our Cassio in some action'. Now, you must remember Iago's initial motive, here: to `strip' him out of his lieutenancy. He believes Cassio has also slept with his wife; an absurd suspicion- but nevertheless allows Iago to continue with his plan. I believe, Iago here does have some conscience of what he's doing- he constantly tries to reassure himself of what he's doing is right; he himself is a victim of his own devise. He allows himself to get carried away with accusations he can't prove. But how would he accomplish such an act?

Using his reputation as `honest Iago' as bait he would `ensnare them all'. Iago needed to f...


... middle of paper ...


...rhaps Iago is also testing Othello's boundaries here- almost like a preliminary test before launching the full attack. Iago is also careful in choosing his words:

`Touch me not so near.

I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth

Than it should do offence to Michael Cassio,

Yet I persuade myself to speak the truth

Shall nothing wrong him. Thus it is general:...'

The syntax here is vital- before Iago begins his account- he extorts his loyalty for Cassio. This makes him sound reluctant; something even Othello admires. Iago also expresses the fact `I persuade myself to speak the truth'- reinforcing his personality as `honest Iago.' Moving deeper into this point, throughout the whole Act Iago exploits this fact and even comments on it himself: `I am an honest man'; by doing this he evokes trust, something he needs to assure his plan's success.



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