The True Beast in Othello Essay

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The True Beast in Othello "What is left when honor is lost?" This maxim from first century BC plays a pivotal role in Shakespeare’s play Othello. The question serves as a basis for the struggle between Othello and Iago. Both men are engaged in a battle over Othello’s honor. Iago is intent on destroying Othello’s sense of honor and reducing him to a bestial state. Iago views Othello as a beast masquerading in warrior’s dress. He wants to return Othello to what he believes to be his natural bestial state, and he realizes that to achieve this goal he must dupe Othello into violating his code of honor. Ironically, as Iago tries to unmask Othello’s bestiality, it is the beast within Iago that is exposed. From the beginning of…show more content…
Iago’s reasons for wanting Othello to murder Desdemona are never satisfactorily explained. As Iago himself says, "What you know, you know" (5.2.306). He gives various reasons for wanting to destroy Othello, but none ring completely true. He is disgruntled because of Cassio’s promotion over him. He suspects Othello of bedding his wife. But why is he determined to have Othello murder Desdemona? His plot seems based on sport rather than reason. Iago truly hates the Moor, but his hate is not grounded in any firm reason. As the play progresses, Iago’s motive never fully crystallizes, but his determination to dupe Othello into murder, thereby destroying his sense of honor, grows stronger. Early in the play Iago realizes that Othello’s idea of honor is intertwined with his concept of justice. Othello, more than any other character in the play, is obsessed with justice. Iago recognizes this; he realizes that for Othello to become a beast he has to violate his sense of justice. With this realization, Iago concocts his plan to have Othello murder Desdemona. He is convinced that in wrongfully murdering his wife, Othello’s manhood will be destroyed and the beast within will be exposed. Iago realizes that to destroy Othello he must convince him that murdering Desdemona is justified and then reveal that the act is unpardonable. To
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