Iago, The Egomaniac

1280 Words6 Pages
If I were to tell you that typing “famous selfish characters” into Google would produce a link to a Iago analysis, would you be surprised? English poet Samuel Coleridge might have had mixed feelings. He once described Iago as a motiveless malignity during a lecture given the winter of 1818. According to Coleridge, motive was not a factor in his actions but instead a natural instinct to commit evil acts. Shakespeare gives us clues to Iago’s perspective that instead explain those unseen motives as attempts to benefit his own selfish cause.

Coleridge makes distinctions about Iago’s personality easy to divulge by any reader. When Iago reveals that he is treating Roderigo like his purse Coleridge comments that this is simply an attempt to go “motive-hunting” when in reality it’s nothing more than an exercise of evil. There seems to be a common belief that this use of motive equates to our modern definition. However, Shakespeare analyst Philip Weller makes a point to define the differing language of the 1800’s. “We use it to mean ‘an emotion, desire, physiological need, or similar impulse that acts as an incitement to action’ (‘Motive’). This definition equates ‘motive’ and ‘impulse’; Coleridge, however, thought the two quite different”. Weller instead suggests that Coleridge defined Iago’s motives as “keen sense of his intellectual superiority…love of exerting power,” and that the reasons he gives are merely rationalizations .

This is a simplification of Iago. While it is an accurate outlook on his inner psyche, Shakespeare does not write off his character as being plainly evil. What’s most important to realize is how Iago views himself. Seeing as this entire play is built off of reputation concerns, it would not be hard to as...

... middle of paper ...

...will return my jewels, / I will give over my suit and repent my unlawful solicitation” (IV.ii.197-198). Iago obviously cannot do what he asks, and the only option is to eliminate Roderigo. Look back on Iago’s past and realize murder is not something he is experienced with. Iago’s determination shifts from his usual manipulation to direct murder, and that is why he fails. His confidence could only take him so far before things got out of hand.

Iago had a super objective to benefit himself in any way possible. In his eyes he was superior to everyone around him and that is what spurred on his motivation. Oddly enough, at one point he had achieved his goal, but as Shakespeare seemed to hint in the first scene Iago was not experienced enough with this caliber of manipulation. Things inevitably got out of control. Iago was the Shakespearean definition of an egomaniac.

    More about Iago, The Egomaniac

      Open Document