Consider the Role of Iago Within the Tragedy of ‘Othello’. Is He a ‘Motiveless Malignity’ or Driven by the ‘Green Eyed Monster That Doth Mock the Meat It Feeds Upon’?

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Consider the role of Iago within the tragedy of ‘Othello’. Is he a ‘motiveless malignity’ or driven by the ‘green eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds upon’? Shakespeare has crafted the character of Iago as one of the most captivating and instinctively evil villains of all time. Undoubtedly, Iago’s role in the play ‘Othello’ is to exact a punishment to the protagonist Othello which is far greater than the crime he committed, therefore fulfilling the crucial criteria of a Shakespearean tragedy and instigating Othello’s tragic downfall. Shakespeare’s lethal combination of characterisation and devices such as dramatic irony leave the audience more aware of the tragedy he is destined to face than he is, thus evoking pity and fear. Critical analyses of Iago’s character consider him as a ‘motiveless malignity’ a term first used to describe Iago by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This perception of Iago is that he is an inherently evil character who justifies his actions with rationalisations rather than genuine motivations. An alternative interpretation of Iago’s malicious behaviour is that he is a ‘green eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds upon,’ a quote from Iago himself which interprets his character as a jealous soldier. Act one is where Iago proposes his initial motives, the first of which is losing out to the role of lieutenant. Both a modern day audience and a Shakespearian audience can appreciate that the bitter despair Iago displays are genuine emotions. In comparison, a structualist view of the play would recognise this as an event that is required to happen to fuel the entirety of the play. The combination of losing out on the role of lieutenant and his raw jealousy of Cassio is a clear motive to provoke Iago into seeking revenge on Othello. However, it can be said that his actions exceed the motive he has presented the audience with. He incorporates Othello’s domestic life into his revenge even though he is angered about his job. After the...
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