Iago—Iago views love primarily as an animal act, “a lust of the blood and a permission of the will.” It is precisely because he has no heart (i.e., he operates without charity, seeking rather to seduce, to cause chaos, to dissemble, lie, tempt, cheat, and conspire) that he earns the title “villain,” aptly applied to him by Brabantio. Iago’s ability to disrupt the order, not only of society (as seen in the first scene) but of man’s very being, is based in his strictly sensual view of love. He has no use for the transcendentals: The good, the true and the beautiful are no more to him than the Venetian facades that house the riches, pleasures, and other fine material possessions that “curled darlings” might like to acquire. Iago is a flagrant materialist who justifies his actions by appealing either to heartless sensuality or to self-centered gain.

He also uses whoever and whatever he can to further his aims, whether it is the money of Roderigo or the little respect that his wife maintains for him. While he values no one (evident in his readiness to kill both Roderigo and Emilia), he is able to put up an agreeable front, a false façade of warmth and care, beneath which simmers one of the cruelest characters ever to be set on stage. In Iago, Shakespeare represents the mystery of iniquity.

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