Iago's Motiveless Malignancy

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S.T. Coleridge regarded Iago as “A being next to the devil, only not quite the devil whose explanatory soliloquies were ‘the motive hunting of motiveless malignity’”. From your reading so far, to what extent do you agree with this view? Iago is one of Shakespeare’s most compelling and sophisticated villain. He is considered as such because of the trust that Othello puts in him and which he betrays while maintaining his reputation of an honest and reliable man. Shakespeare presents Iago as cynical, quick witted and opportunistic, therefore having all qualities of stage villains in revenge tragedies. He is eaten up by jealousy and hatred, and this leads him to seek ways to destroy Othello by poisoning his mind against Desdemona. Iago is a master in pretending and destroying. Most of the times we see that he enjoys having an audience, because we see that he has a lot of soliloquies where he outlines his plot very clearly. However he is rather mysterious especially when he refuses to speak at the end of the play. In fact, it is this silence that led to Coleridge concluding that he has a “motiveless malignity”. The same critic also viewed Iago as “being next to the devil”. Here Iago is no longer considered as the epitome of evil, but he is seen as an example of an emotionally limited man, driven by jealousy. Most other Shakespearean characters do bad things in order to achieve a particular goal. Often the motive is ambition as in Macbeth or revenge, as in Hamlet. The thing about Iago is that we really never know for certain why Iago acts In this way. However, many people think that the possible motive for Iago’s actions is envy, particularly towards Desdemona, Cassio and Othello. Iago sees them as more noble, generous and in the case of Cassio, more handsome than he is. This is reflected in the line when he says: “He hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly”. In addition, Iago suspects his wife, Emilia, of infidelity with Cassio. Iago’s relationship with...
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