Character analysis of Iago from Shakespeare's "Othello".

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"I am not what I am" (I.i.62) declares Iago to Roderigo near the beginning of Shakespeare's Othello, who will not take action because he is slow-witted. Iago's love of deception signals his evil. He is a deranged individual, full of envy, who wants to cause chaos and pain.

In acts I and II Iago, bent on bringing forth the destruction of Othello, gives to himself a list of motives for his hatred. His first motive, the fact that Othello gave the job of lieutenant to Michael Cassio, is the only one that makes sense for him to hate Othello. Not getting the job causes him feel to feel like a professional failure, hence causing a desire for revenge. When Roderigo responds to says "I would not follow him then," (I.i.38), Iago responds with "I follow him to serve my turn upon him" (I.i.39). That is, he pretends to be friends with Othello in order to get revenge.

He then gives a list of reasons, all weak, for hating Othello. The second reason is fear of Othello having a relationship with Emilia, saying that Othello has "twixt [his] sheets / H'as done [his] office" (I.iii.378-379) with only "mere suspicion in that kind" (I.iii.380) to back it up. Similarly, when he gives his third motive, that he loves Desdemona "not out of absolute lust though peradventure / [he stands] accountant for as great a sin / but partly led to diet [his] revenge" (II.i.292-294). Yet another reason that Iago does not directly state, but is implicit, is his sickening jealousy of Othello's love and happiness with Desdemona. Iago's reasons, though weak, show him to be disturbed human with inhumane methods of achieving his goal.

In his monologues and speeches to Roderigo, Iago reveals how emotionally sick he is. After Roderigo leaves the stage, Iago says how he has nothing to do with him other than for "sport and profit" (I.iii.377). These same words, "sport and profit", describe why Iago manipulates Othello and does evil. At the end of the same soliloquy, Iago summons the devil: "Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light" (I.iii.394-395) - the most dramatic evidence of his madness. Evil thoughts are eating him up as he describes: "the thought whereof / doth like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards" (II.i.296-297). He also intends to make Othello mad, claiming that he will "practice upon his peace and quiet / even to madness" (II.i.310-311). Iago, playing the role of a poisonous doctor, works on Othello's mind to bring it into a state of madness to match his own.

In the eavesdropping scene, the turning point in the play, Iago, sick and worked up with jealousy, manages to corrupt the mind of the gullible Othello. They make an ideal pair because Othello is trusting, inexperienced around women, and is insecure about his age and race. Iago begins by hinting that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair and actually gets Othello to beg him for more information. He then presses Othello's vulnerable points by talking about Desdemona's opportunities for husbands "of her own clime, complexion, and degree" (III.iii.230). He then sets up the eavesdropping scene in which the degraded Othello thinks he hears Cassio speak of Desdemona. When Othello gives several possibilities for killing Desdemona, Iago tells him to kill her in her own bed, an appropriate place for such an act as he claims she had.

Throughout the play, Iago shows no signs of remorse. How could an individual, no matter how emotionally sick he is, have none? Is this because he has achieved everything he wanted: the destruction of multiple lives for minimal reason? Could he have been a mole, working for the Turks, in attempting to destroy civilization in Cyprus for easier seizure? In both cases, Iago must be a deranged individual to slay, or be directly involved in the slaying, of several innocent civilians.