Iago: Motivated Motiveless Malignity

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"Though in the trade of war I have slain men,/Yet do I hold it very stuff o' the conscience/To do no contriv'd murder…" (Othello, I ii 1-3). While Iago claims that he could commit no murder, it is made clear to any reader that while he physically does not outwardly do any harm any character under the presumed pretense of murder that he has indeed brought about the death of two characters, and, in the case of Roderigo, has murdered under the pretense of aiding Cassio. While "Coleridge comments on [Iago's] "motiveless malignity" (Gilchrist 1), any two year-old can see that he is chock-full of motive, though admittedly it would take a more advanced mind to more completely understand the depth of his motives. Motives aside, Iago is one of the more likable characters in Othello.

Iago, villain of villains, is initially portrayed as a very jealous and spiteful man (Othello, I i 8-33), a man of "open and palpable villainy (Bloom 56), and throughout the play, the reader's view of him does not change dramatically if at all. This is a very good thing for the average reader of today; today's reader prefers a more static character (mentally, not intellectually) for as time passes people become more and more afraid of change. This fear of change often allows for a more well-defined relationship between the reader and the static character. If a reader can identify with a character, she or he is more liable to be fond of the character; even if the character is evil, the reader will be more apt to "love to hate" the character due to its constancy.

Constancy is a word that can define the character and the motives of Iago quite satisfactorily. His motives, or one could say motive in singular, remain the same: revenge. He wants revenge for not having received the promotion to Lieutenant that he, at least in his own mind, so rightly deserved. This one desire to reap vengeance upon those involved in this discredit to his abilities forces Iago to remain constant in his...
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