Honest Iago

Powerful Essays
Honest Iago

The poet Coleridge appropriately described the character of Iago as being one of "motiveless malignity." Throughout the play Iago’s motives are secondary to, and seem only to serve as justification for, his actions. Iago is driven by his nature of character. To discuss Coleridge’s assessment we must look at Iago’s character—from Iago’s point of view and that of the other characters—his motives, methods, and pawns. Through some carefully thought-out words and actions, Iago is able to manipulate others to do things in a way that benefits him; all the while he is pushing Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, Emilia, and Cassio to their tragic end.

According to Websters New International Dictionary, Second Edition, malignity is partially defined as "disposition to do evil." "Motiveless" is implied in the definition of malignity. That one has a "disposition to do evil" is to say evil is in the nature of the malignant person; motive is not an issue. "Motiveless malignity" is redundant in the pure meaning of the words. Does Coleridge mean to say that Iago cannot help himself from being evil or does he mean that what Iago did was without motive? For the sake of this discussion, Coleridge intends the later.

Abbott states "in truth character is what a person is; reputation is what he is supposed to be." (Websters) Is Iago evil? No, he is not. Walter Lippmann says that "evil is not a quality of things as such. It is a quality of our relation to them." (Websters) Iago is not opposed to good (a partial definition of evil) however, he is amoral and malicious.

How does Iago see himself? "Others there are who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, keep yet their hearts attending on themselves, and t...

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...d knowledge of the nature of things to play a game and win. He does not make each move with conscious reason, only to win the game; thus Iago is motiveless at each step. He is like a child who only enjoys tumbling down the blocks of other children; he is the play-yard bully. When asked why, the bully generally shrugs and says "I don’t know." Similarly when asked why, Iago's response is just as simple: "What you know, you know." [Act V, Scene 2, Line 302] And Iago knew why; and he knew how. Iago most honestly confesses to Emily "I told him what I thought, and told no more than what he found himself was apt and true" [Act V, Scene 2, Line 175] The unspoken line comes next: they believed what they wanted—they are the guilty not I. Iago is a crafty, intelligent, manipulative school-yard bully, who is motiveless at each move. Iago is an honest man--deadly honest.
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