How Important Is Revenge as a Motivating Factor in Othello?

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The tragic chain of events in Othello is a result of many factors. Revenge is certainly apparent; however, it is not necessarily the most magnitudinous-motivating factor. Furthermore, there is such a complexity of motives that it is remarkably difficult to substantiate an overriding and prominent intention behind every single character‘s actions; as they each have their own individual feelings, predicaments, and personalities.

Iago allegedly “hate[s] the Moor” for a number of seemingly unreasonable causes. This could possibly be because of Othello’s ethnic background. Iago would question how Othello attained his position over another white man. In Shakespearean times, this would have caused a great deal of antagonism and jealousy, as racism was rife around the time it was written. Othello would have been viewed as an ‘other‘, and perhaps he brought his downfall upon himself by overreaching as a man of his ethnic background in those times. He was bound to make enemies with his position and power as a black man. Furthermore, Iago declares, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” Iago has certain plots for revenge, and as the play progresses his poison envelops Othello completely. Iago’s devastating weapon is his ability to poison people’s minds effortlessly with his mercurial nature and talent to adapt his language to any situation; the “poison” is also metaphorical for the progress his vengeance has made as it seeps into his victims. Additionally, Iago feels cheated as Othello chose Cassio for the position over himself. Iago passionately believes that he is “worth no worse a place”, meaning that he truly considers that he should, at least, have Cassio‘s power and title.

Moreover, Iago considers himself a cuckold as he suspects Othello has slept with his wife, Emilia: “…’twixt my sheets he’s done my office.” Therefore, the threat of cuckoldry and loss of reputation conjures sizeable amounts of jealousy in Iago, which influences his desire for revenge. The...
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