The Ironic Interdependence of Othello and Iago Essay

The Ironic Interdependence of Othello and Iago Essay

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The Ironic Interdependence of Othello and Iago

At the start of Othello, Iago makes very clear to Roderigo the
apparent cause for his hatred of the general. His lack of promotion to
lieutenant leads him to declare:

…be judge yourself,

Whether I in any just term am affin'd

To love the Moor. (I, i, 38-40.) FN1

As Roger Moore has pointed out in an essay accompanying this one, such
a motive is not a grand-scale one, nor one which might cast Iago as
the Universal Villain. His secondary motive, however, provides a
different insight into his character, and provides the first instance
of the theme which will dominate this play : sexual jealousy:

I hate the Moor,

And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets

He's done my office; (I, iii, 384-386)

More than this, however, it is the very fact that he acknowledges the
nature of the suspicion (rumour) and then dismisses it from his mind
that shows the inherently insecure nature of this villain. He has
fallen into the same trap over Cassio ('For I fear Cassio with my
nightcap too' [II, i, 302]), and his jealousy is attested to even by
his wife:

Some such squire he was,

That turn'd your wit, the seamy side without,

And made you suspect me with the Moor. (IV, ii, 147-149)

The deep-rooted cause for this combination of insecurity and jealousy
lies deep within his psyche. We must remember the shared history of
Othello and Iago, which in fact far transcends that shared by Othello
and Desdemona. Othello makes much of the fact that,

…since these arms of mine had seven years' pith

Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used

Their dearest action in t...

... middle of paper ...

...exist without
Othello, as it is Othello's destruction which gives purpose and
direction to Iago's life. As Othello recognises that the mere
appearance of the dead Desdemona will 'hurl my soul from heaven' (V,
ii, 275), so he is even at the end of the play linked to the
'demi-devil' (302) and 'hellish villain' (369) who has 'ensnar'd [his]
soul and body' (303). In planting the seeds of doubt and destruction
in Othello, Iago planted the very seeds of his own fall:

'for what soever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' FN3


1. This, and all other textual references to Othello are from 'The
Arden Shakespeare' edition, (Ed. M. R. Ridley, 1985 [Methuen, New

2. Bloom, Harold, (1999) : Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,
(Fourth Estate, London)

3. Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, vi, 7

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