In the play Othello, the character Iago plays a paramount role in the destruction of Othello and all of those around him. Some critics state that Iago's actions are motiveless and that he is a purely evil character. However, during the course of this paper, certain motives for Iago's actions will be discussed.
For the first motive to be understood the reader must become knowledgeable of Othello's heritage and the setting of the play. Othello is a Moslem from North Africa. He is living in Venice. He is the leader of the Venetian forces. Anthony Burgess, a Shakespearean critic, believes that Othello's color has nothing to do with Iago's actions.
"Othello's color had no connotations of the enslavable inferiority. There were many great Negroes in those days like that Antonio de Vunth, who was King of Congo's ambassador to the Holy See."(Shakespeare, pp.200)
There may have been many great Negroes around in those days but there were none in Venice. Othello was the only member of his race in Venice. Many of the people who lived in Venice had never seen a Moor. To the people of Venice, Moors were different and feared, they were seen as an evil spirit. Some people thought that they were witches or devils that walked the earth. Included in a text written by Stephen Greenblatt, Roderigo and Barbanizo believed that "Othello used magic to win Desdemona."(Norton Shakespeare, pp. 2091). You also see many references in the play where a character will refer to Othello as being a devil or beast.
It was no secret to the reader of the play that Iago possessed a hatred for Othello. In fact, in act one of the plays the reader s...
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...nced by motives and he was not just evil. There must be motive to spark evil and in Iago's case the fact that he was losing what seemed to be respect and accountability from the people of Venice and his friends, drove him to hate.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bayley, John. Shakespeare and Tragedy. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1981.
Bradley, A. C.. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1970.
Di Yanni, Robert. "Character Revealed Through Dialogue." Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Literature. N. p.: Random House, 1986.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
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