What is the motivation behind Iago’s treachery? From the beginning Iago is up to no good, using Roderigo as a pawn in his plan to go after Othello by waking up Desdemona’s father to warn him of his daughter leaving him, and continuing manipulation throughout the story. He gains everyone’s trust and becomes “honest Iago,” which is really quite the opposite, and uses this to his advantage as he warps Othello’s mind increasing his paranoia over Desdemona. But why does he do all this? I feel his motives are that he thinks he’s smarter and more clever than everyone and always needs to test and prove this to himself, but he is just lucky that those around him are so easily tricked, according to an online essay “Iago’s ability to understand human nature makes him evil because he uses his knowledge of human nature to manipulate others to his advantage. This manipulation is primarily acted out on the good, which are the most gullible to evil.”2 Iago also does all this out of pure hatred and jealousy for Othello, that he appoints Cassio to lieutenant, doesn’t acknowledge Iago until later in the story, and out of jealousy of the Moor being the leader, according Andrea Oberheiden,”His position as Othello’s servant is the premise and fundament on which his character traits can flourish. If Iago had been in a superior position, he would not have been able to lead or advance the actions in Othello the way he does.” 4 This is why he seeks to destroy Othello and will take down anyone in his way and/or to help him reach this goal.
“Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.” (I.i.7). The story starts off referring to Iago’s hatred for the moor, straight from Roderigo’s mouth. Iago is pissed because he didn’t get promoted to lieutenant. An online PDF states, “Iago claims in the beginning that he hates Othello, and seeks revenge because Othello didn’t listen to the ‘great ones of the city,’ who suggested that he make Iago his lieutenant.” 5 Pryse states, “As far as Othello is concerned, Iago does not exist.” 10 He strongly believes he deserved the promotion, and according to Iago, he wasn’t the only who thought so: Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Offcapp'd to him; and, by the faith of man,
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. (I.i.8-11)
In his lecture Brown states, “It is necessary to examine in this manner every statement made by Iago.” 7 Of course with Iago being the deceitful one he is, we can’t for sure believe that just because he told Roderigo this that it actually happened, but this early in the story there’s no reason to no not believe him yet. Iago then reveals to Roderigo the short version of his plan. That he’s going to take Othello down. Iago will accept not being lieutenant for now, so he can “… follow him to serve my turn upon him” (I.i.43). Iago reveals his devilish ideas to Roderigo about his plan toward Othello, and Roderigo still continues to trust him, going along with that it’s a good idea to stir things up by going up to Desdemona’s father’s window to wake him and tell him she’s left him. Such luck Iago has that Roderigo is so easily manipulated into doing what Iago wants. Iago would have a tougher time being so evil and plotting against the moor if he didn’t luck out having a love struck idiot as a “friend,” and Iago knows this: Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;
For I mine own gain'd knowledge should profane,
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit...(I.iii.393-396)
Iago treats Roderigo as practice for his manipulation, and takes advantage of his lack of wit, convincing him to give him all his money, making him his purse. According to Lohrenson in an online essay, “Iago knew that if he said a few right words, he would be able to make Rodrigo trustworthy of him and he did this by advising Rodrigo to do things that would eliminate...
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