Does Iago have sufficient reason to commit his evil acts

“evil: violating or inconsistent with the moral law…harmful…the devil, Satan.” . Does Iago fit this description, thus proving he is purely evil in his actions? Alternatively, does he have substantial motivation? In this essay I will discuss his motives and actions and come to my conclusion.

Throughout Othello, the reader often asks himself why does Iago do the things he does? There are several factors, but the one that stands out the most is his jealousy of the Moor, Othello. The first and probably most obvious aspect of this is the power factor. Iago was passed over for the position of Lieutenant for Michael Cassio, whom Iago holds in disgust. In the following passage, Iago tells Roderigo about Cassio and how it came to be that Cassio received the rank of lieutenant and not himself.

"One Michael Cassio…That never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of battle knows…Mere prattle without practice is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had th’ election and I, of whom his [Othello] eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds Christian and heathen, must be belee’d and calmed…"

It is this sense of injustice in Iago, that should be considered almost a sufficient motive for his evil deeds. Yet, there is another aspect to Iago’s jealousy, sexual covetousness. Othello is a Moor, tall, dark and exotic. It is this exoticness that women find very “attractive” in Othello. Iago would find this most annoying and would try to make Othello seem more foul and less trustworthy. For example, look at the scene where Iago and Roderigo inform Brabantio that his daughter has run away and eloped with Othello. Iago uses very vile, gross images to convey his message. “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” And also “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are making the beast with two backs.”


Othello, summerset edition