Coleridge's View on Iago's Soliloquies Essay

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Coleridge's View on Iago's Soliloquies

The phrase "the motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" occurs in a note that Coleridge wrote concerning the end of Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello in which Iago takes leave of Roderigo saying, "Go to, farewell. Put money enough in your purse", and then delivers the soliloquy beginning "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse".

When evaluating Coleridge's view, it is important to put the word "motive" into context. We use it to mean an emotion, desire, a physiological need - an impulse that acts as an incitement to action. This definition equates "motive" and " impulse"; Coleridge, however, thought the two quite different. Here is what he wrote on the subject:-
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It is engendered! Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light" =====================================================

Shakespeare often uses night to represent disorder and chaos - both Acts I and V of Othello are set at night. Daylight usually brings reason and restoration of order. By using Hell and night as parents of his plan, Iago shows his commitment to evil - his desire to counterbalance the virtue embodied by the "world's light". Further proof that Iago's dedication to committing foul acts is driven by no other reason but the baseness of the acts themselves occurs in his soliloquy at the end of Act II where he speaks of the "divinity of hell" by which he is governed.

Thus it could be said that Iago is a character whose sole impulse is to commit evil deeds - evil is his object and his motives are mere excuses or trite justifications. Such a character was typical of Elizabethan tragedies - at the time sins were personified in plays and villains were just thoroughly bad; they loved evil for its own sake. Writers portrayed these characters simply because they served as a catalyst for drama or acted as a convenient plot device. In this respect, Iago needs no motives for his actions - he is, as Coleridge asserted, a motiveless malignity. This view could be supported by the fact that Shakespeare used a Spanish name for
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