The Character of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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The Character of Iago in Othello

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
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"Even now, now, very now, an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe."(Othello, Act 1, scene 1, ln. 88-89). Iago knew that Othello and Desdemona had eloped and he was determined to break the couple up. Othello was a high-ranking officer in the Venetian forces, however some critics believe that to Iago, Othello was simply a Moor who had moved into his territory and taken over. Iago had reasons other than the color of Othello's skin to hate the Moor.

Iago is a very secretive villain throughout the play and until the end of the play there were not many characters who knew what Iago was scheming. However, in the first scene of the play Iago tells Roderigo that he hates the Moor and despises the fact that Othello chose Michael Cassio to be his lieutenant. Iago tells this to Roderigo before he plans to seek revenge on Othello. This envy of Michael Cassio plays a very important role and is a tremendous motivational factor in the plot against Othello. Iago is so ruthless that he involves Cassio into the plot in order to ruin his reputation and career. Iago wants to destroy Cassio because he does not believe that Cassio is qualified to fulfill the position he has obtained. Iago is a very distinguishable solider who has been a military man, and Othello's right hand man, for some time. Iago has been in many battles whereas Cassio has yet to fight. Iago refers to Cassio as an "arithmatician" not a solider with practical experience. Cassio was
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