Othello as the Greater Evil in William Shakespeare’s Othello

Powerful Essays
Othello as the Greater Evil in William Shakespeare’s Othello

What makes one person to be considered evil, while another is considered righteous? The character Iago, in William Shakespeare’s Othello, could be considered evil because of his plot against Cassio and Othello. Othello, could be considered righteous, because he believes his wife has been unfaithful. The line between these two labels, evil or righteous, is thin. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words. Iago is evil in his actions towards Othello, but between the two, Othello is the most evil for reacting to lies in the most violent of ways.

The evil in Iago becomes visible from the very beginning of the play. He explains at the beginning how he was passed over for the position of lieutenant by Othello, who gave the position to Cassio. This gives Iago cause for not only hating Othello but Cassio as well. Iago’s hatred for Othello becomes even more apparent by his simple statement "I hate the Moor" (Oth. 1.3.588). His hatred for Othello is partly based on his belief that Othello had an affair with his wife, Emilia. He says, "And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets / He’s done my office" (Oth. 1.3.588). This belief is based purely on rumor and nothing more. It is during this speech that Iago gives insight into his plot to make Othello think that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. This will ultimately be the fuel that exposes the evil in Othello.

Othello’s deep love for Desdemona is the reason behind the deep hatred he begins to feel. Early on Othello proclaims how happy he is and how much in love he is with Desdemona. "For know, Iago, / But that I love the gentle Desdemona" (Oth. 1.2.572). Othello also seems consumed with passion for Desdemona....

... middle of paper ...

...ay. These lies may have been planted by Iago, but it is Othello’s own decision to carry out these murders. Should Iago’s soul carry the blame for the lies that had an evil result?

Works Cited

Mc Elroy, Bernard. Shakespeare’s Mature Tragedies. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Shakespeare, William. "Othello, The Moor of Venice". Literature and Ourselves. 2nd ed. Ed. Gloria Henderson, Bill Day, and Sandra Waller. New York: Longman, 1997. 563-682.

Vanita, Ruth. "’Proper’ men and ‘Fallen’ women: The unprotectedness of wives in Othello". Studies in English Literature. 34 (1994): 341-58. Online. EBSCO Publishing. 18 June 1999. Available WWW:

Zender, Karl F.. "The Humiliation Of Iago". Studies in English Literature. 34 (1994): 323-40. Online. EBSCO Publishing. 18 June 1999. Available WWW:
Get Access