"Othello" and the effects of revenge

Essay by lileryn87College, UndergraduateA+, April 2006

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"Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which,

when a man hath forced up a hill,

will return upon him with a greater violence,

and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion."

- German Philosopher and 1952 Nobel Prize

winner Albert Schweitzer

Enter any shopping center in the United States and you are guaranteed to always find at least one store remotely dedicated to the topic of revenge. Most include a wide variety of "tools" used to exact retribution including phony fecal matter, gum designed to stain your mouth when chewed, a dozen pre-boxed dead roses, and books filled with ideas on how to get the better of people who have "done you wrong". Revenge, an obvious favorite topic of playwright William Shakespeare, is the key motivator of the antagonist, Iago, in Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. After being denied a position he felt was well deserved, Iago goes on a rampage to gain revenge on Othello, his general who denied his promotion and possibly slept with his wife.

Throughout the play, though, a change is seen in Iago. Iagos initial motivation for revenge seems to dissipate as the play progresses and slowly moves to a general interest in causing mayhem and disorder to everyone he encounters. Iago eventually appears to release his justifiable reasons for causing chaos and move towards more evil and irrational reasons.

Iago's anger and desire for revenge at Othello is apparent from the beginning of the play. It is only in the beginning of the play that Iago appears to be seeking revenge for a reason - the loss of his promotion after his loyalty in battle to Othello. The first act opens with Iago plotting against Othello by discussing with a friend his strategy for unearthing hidden plans...