Significant Quotations

“’Tis the curse of service./Preferment goes by letter and affection,/And not by old gradation, where each second/Stood heir to th’ first.” (1.1.37-40)

These words are spoken by Iago upon his being passed over by Othello for the position of lieutenant, which goes to Cassio. Iago, very early in the play, sees quite clearly how the natural order of things is overruled by affection and matters of the heart. Perhaps it is for this reason that he becomes the antithesis of affection and the enemy of matters of the heart.

“I am not what I am.” (1.1.71)

This line belongs to Iago and shows that he is aware of how deceptive he is being. He embraces the role of the villain, concealing his evil intentions from those around him, hiding them in smiles and affability. To the audience, however, he must divulge his secret. Roderigo is the only character in the play who has a sense of Iago’s real villainy, yet even Roderigo is duped by Iago, who pretends to be helping the pitiful suitor to win the love of Desdemona. Iago reveals his duplicity to Roderigo, even stating this very line to him. Stupidly, Roderigo still believes in Iago’s honesty, or at least allows himself to be persuaded by Iago’s words. Roderigo does, in fact, assert that Iago has been false with him, but each time relents—each time, that is, but the last when he calls Iago a “damned dog” before dying.

“It is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will.” (1.3.377)

Iago states this to Roderigo in reference to love. Love, according to Iago, has nothing of heart in it; it has nothing of charity, of goodness, truth, or beauty. “Love” is motivated by lust, passion, appetite, animal instinct, and is countenanced by the will, the brain, reason. Thus, when man consents to satisfy his animal appetites, Iago cynically calls this “love.” It is plain that he has no true concept of love.

“Do not learn...

Sign up to continue reading Significant Quotations >

Essays About Othello