10 abr. 2010

Evil Iago driven by undefined motifs

In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, the character of Iago is a complex one who has a very deep psychological insight as well as a great capacity to manipulate people. In Othello, Iago is the Villain who brings about the final destruction of the Hero – Othello. Iago personifies the traits of deceit and revenge and is presented as the embodiment of Evil. The development of Othello centers around the rising jealousy of the antagonist as the vehicle which produces Othello’s downfall. Moreover, Iago possesses a powerful intellectual capacity to manipulate the other characters. However, Iago acts with the most perfect indifference to good or evil, or with a preference for the latter. He is nearly as indifferent to his own fate as to that of others characters; he runs all risks for a doubtful advantage. From the beginning of the play, Iago makes it clear that his goal is to destroy Othello by any means possible. Consequently, it is important to notice that there no apparent and/or defined reasons to do so; however, we can say that Iago has been moved by hatred of good and delight in causing pain, marital and professional jealousy, overwhelming ambition, and perverted intellectual amusement.
Considering the fact that Iago seeks for hatred of good and delight in causing pain, we can say that he was willing to make anyone’s life miserable by taking revenge on them at the slightest provocation and enjoys the pain and damage he causes. This can be seen throughout the whole play which ends tragically since Iago’s hatred poisoned everyone’s mind, setting the characters against each other. For instance, by attempting to help Cassio, Desdemona’s credit was undone in Othello’s eyes generating an uncontrollable feeling of hatred and jealousy. This eventually, turned up as the cause of Iago planting the seed of doubt in Othello’s mind about his wife being adulterous. However, as the play unfolds, Emilia becomes suspicious of Othello’s development of jealousy and finally finds out the truth and reveals Iago’s plot to Othello, but too late, when their fate is already written. This is yet another vicious act to show the true evil Iago represents but Othello finally realizes after being fooled into murder: “I look down towards his feet – but that’s a fable / If that thou be’st a devil, / I cannot kill thee” (Act V, Scene II( and Iago replies: “I bleed sir, / but not killed” which his final statement that truly shows openly his belief in evil. That is the destruction of all that is good: Hell over Heaven and Black over White. Iago, as a representation of evil, has one major motivational factor that leads him to lie, cheat, and commit crimes on other characters. This motivation is the destruction of all that is good and the rise of evil.
As regards professional jealousy, the first and most obvious reason for Iago’s desire to undermine Othello is the fact that he was passed over for pa promotion to be a lieutenant. However, the motivations of Iago are quite ambiguous and seem to originate in an obsessive delight in manipulation and destruction which stems from his overwhelming unhappiness. Othello is the Moor of Venice who has just married Desdemona (a senator’s daughter) and he has just promoted Cassio to the position of lieutenant, which provokes anger in Iago. Such anger seems to stem from the fact that Cassio was passed over for the position of lieutenant, whixh arises Iago’s jealousy: “In personal suit to make me his lieutenant, / Off-capd to him; and by the faith of man / I know my price, I am no worse a place / But he, as loving as his own pride and purposes, / Evades them with a bombast circumstance / Horribly stuffed with epithets of war, / Nonsuits my mediators; for “certes” says he; / “I have already chose my officer”.” (Act I, Scene I). Considering marital jealousy, we can exemplify it with Act I, Scene II, in which Iago states his belief that Emilia (his wife) committed adultery with Othello: “It is thought abroad that “twixt my sheets / He has done my office” (Act I, Scene III). These suspicions are raised again when Iago explains that he lusts after Desdemona as part of his plan to get even with Othello “wife for wife”: “The Moor – how be’t that I endure him not - / And I dare think he’ll prove to Desdemona / A most dear husband. Now I do love her too, / Not out of absolute lust” (Act II, Scene I). However, these suspicions do not fully explain the story behind Iago’s hatred for Othello, nor do they give him motivation for destroying the other characters. Besides, another fact that it is important to take into consideration is the jealousy that had aroused in Othello’s eyes because of Iago, and the fact that he had warned Othello: “O, Beware, my lord, of jealousy / It is the green-eyed monster / which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (Act III, Scene III), telling Othello that jealousy can take over and make things appear differently that they are in reality. Also, Iago reminds Othello that Desdemona deceived her father in marrying him and she could do the same to him. And to make things looks worse, Iago tells Othello to “look for his wife, observe her well with Cassio” (Act III, Scene III) since Iago wanted Othello to look deeper into the relationship of Desdemona and Cassio, where the whole plan of constructing and illusion on the part of Iago, began. As a result of Othello’s trusting nature in Iago’s ideas, Iago could penetrate into Othello’s unsuspecting mind and therein warp his thoughts and actions throughout the course of the play.
Taking into account Iago’s overwhelming ambition, we can say that it is Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him a powerful character who is ready to fulfill his thirst for ambition. We can see this, when he took the handkerchief from Emilia and told Othello about it knowing that he will not doubt him: “I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin, / and let him find it. Trifles light as air / are to the jealous confirmations strong / As proof of holy writ. This may do something / The Moor already changes with my poison. / Dangerous conceits are in their nature” (Act III, Scene III). Through actions like this, Iago inspires trust upon the characters. This shows Othello’s tragic flaw, at this point he is already susceptible to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the demise of others. By this actions, Othello has isolated himself from everyone except from Iago. This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to complete his course of action. Considering Iago’s desire and ambition for money, Iago’s scenes with Roderigo show his manipulative abilities. Iago tells Roderigo that he needs more money to take Desdemona away from Othello in Act I, Scene II, “Put money in thy purse / Follow thou the wars / defeat they favor with an usurped beard / I say, put money in thy purse / It cannot be long that Desdemona should continue her love to the Moor / Put money in they purse” (Act I, Scene III). He does so, because he says that that is the only way Roderigo can get Desdemona. This may show that one of Iago’s motives could be his ambition for money since he insists that Roderigo needs to give him more money.
If we take Iago’s perverted intellectual amusement as one of his motifs, we can say that by false aspersions and by resenting the most revolting images to Othello’s mind, easily turns the storm of passion from Othello against Desdemona, and works him up to a trembling agony of doubt and fear, in which he abandons all his love and hopes through the construction of an illusion. For instance, in Act III, Scene III: “Now do I see ‘this true / Look here, Iago / All my fond love thus do I blow to Heav’n – ‘Tis gone / Arise, black vengeance from the hollow hell; / Yield up, O love, thy crown and hatred throne / To tyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thy fraught, / For ‘tis of aspics’ tongues” in which Othello’s love turns into pure hate. Another intellectual movement performed by Iago van be illustrated in Act IV, Scene I where Othello falls into trance after falling victim to one of Iago’s malicious lies concerning the details of the imaginary affair between Desdemona and Cassio: “Lie with her? Lie on her? We say “lie on her” / Fulsome! / Handkerchief –confessions- handkerchief. To confess and be hanged for this labor. First to be hanged / and then to confess! (…) / Noses, ears, and lips? / Is’t possible? – Confess? – Handkerchief- O devil!” –then Othello falls down on a trance. The lethargy of Othello followed by his physical collapse shows his final capture by Iago and the point where the tragic hero becomes irreversibly cast into a tumult of sin.
Iago’s motives are not clear cut but instead they are a related combination of many things. He is jealous, he has a hatred for good and takes delight in causing pain. He feels and overwhelming ambition, and presents a perverted intellectual amusement. This leads to the tragic ending of the play: Desdemona is murdered by her husband who in turn commits suicide. Emilia is killed by Iago because she revealed the truth. Cassio is the only character that lives to see Iago’s fate.