Coleridge famously describes the analysis of Iago as “the motive hunting of a motiveless malignity”. Using the soliloquies as a starting point, discuss your view of Iago and compare your views with other critics. Of all Shakespeare’s villainous creations Iago stands out as being the most wickedly stimulating yet most misunderstood character. His apparent lack of motive but somehow effortless flair for causing deliberate cruelty and revelling in the obliteration that he has orchestrated has been widely disputed amongst many literary critics such as the esteemed Samuel Taylor Coleridge, RK.
Flatter and Norman Sanders. When faced with the question of whether Iago is actually as motiveless as he seems, the audience begin the search as to why Iago is so cruel. However, the hunt for these motives is almost impossible as Iago tries to convince himself that he is perfectly justified to act as he does. Nonetheless, his ‘motives’ are merely unsubstantiated figments of his twisted imagination. Throughout Iago’s soliloquies a number of potential motives are suggested. Adultery is one of the possible motives. Iago firmly believes that Othello is having an affair with his wife, Emilia.
Therefore, Iago may have felt sexual jealousy and contempt that Othello was, in his mind, making a cuckold out of him: “For that I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leaped into my seat. ” Iago is a character that audiences either love or hate. He is commonly hated for his love of spite, his destruction of human nature and for his total lack of any loving or endearing feelings. Nevertheless, at times Iago is viewed as a comic genius by saying things, such as the quotation above, that seem utterly ridiculous but nonetheless are pure comedy statements.
An important viewpoint of the play is to look at the role that women play in Iago’s life. In my opinion, women are not involved in his perverse, sadistic pleasure pursuit: they are just there to help him to live out the sick fantasy that he has in his head. Iago uses the idea that Othello is engaging in the deadliest of sins, adultery, with his wife, Emilia as the reason behind his loathing for Othello. However, this does not ring true as such a malevolent, premeditated attack of “vengeance” must have been thought up over some time and not in a number of days, as it is in Iago’s case.
Another point is that throughout the play Iago shows disinterest and a total lack of concern towards Emilia, thus insinuating that he is not really anxious about the fact that she could be having an affair: “It is a common thing… to have a foolish wife. ” The much admired literary critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge dismisses the suggestion that Iago has just reasoning behind his insufferable malice and unforgivable cruelty. His view on the analysis of Iago is, “the motive hunting of a motiveless malignity. On some level, I agree with this statement; however, I do not wholly agree.
The audience may form the opinion that Iago is completely inhuman and perverted; nonetheless, I myself find it hard and incredible that some ill-fated event that occurred previously in his life has not bowed and diminished his humanity and thus fashioned this sinful spawn of Satan. Iago’s unity with the devil and his feelings of total pleasure and satisfaction in his self-schemed destruction leads me to believe the above statement to the highest degree: Hell and night must bring this Monstrous birth to the world’s light. ” Another common interpretation behind the unkindness demonstrated by Iago is to do with the fact that it is commonly thought that Iago is a racist, and as Othello is black, this is the source from which Iago’s despicable behaviour and attitude towards Othello stems. Taking this into consideration there is also a possibility that Iago could be jealous of Othello’s status and the hold of power that he has over him.
Therefore, these two factors, when placed together, push forward the suggestion that Iago hated the fact that he, who in his mind is the most powerful man around, had to take orders from what he thought to be a savage beast that should be socially, placed far below him: “Tis the curse of service. ” Coleridge is not the only literary critic who believes that there are no motives for Iago’s callous behaviour. RK. Flatter depicts Iago as, “… n inhuman, two-dimensional character… ” I completely disagree with this statement. In my opinion, Iago is not a two-dimensional character but a character who holds many dimensions and levels to his personality. I also believe that he is a tremendously deep character who is hiding something excruciatingly agonising and rooted deep down inside of him that ensures that he is the spiteful and malicious beast that is full of hate for everyone that he is. In addition, RK.
Flatter’s comment insinuates to me that Iago is an emotionless and spiritual cripple who is totally unable to feel any kind of real, true and raw emotions. This idea seems simply ridiculous to me as throughout the duration of the play Iago confirms that he is an extremely emotional man as he is always full of hatred, spite and malice. In my opinion, these are the darker feelings of emotions but nonetheless they are still emotions that people feel. Therefore, the theory that Iago feels nothing at all is disproved.
On the other hand, however, it could be looked upon that Iago has an easily misunderstood feeling towards the positive emotions such as love. It is almost as if Iago struggles with the complexity that accompanies such feelings that, in his mind are futile, time-wasting feelings. In his mind they are purely “permission of the will”. In my mind, this is why he feels no guilt in his desire to demolish and obliterate anything that is beautiful and viewed upon as being attractive such as the sensation of love and adoration.
These are the very things that cause him great pain and he hates the fact that he is surrounded by the very thing that he sees no point in, in the shape of the newly-weds Othello and Desdemona, who he views as contemptible fools whom, he believes, he can manipulate for his own means. Present day Theatre critic Charles Spencer completely deprecates Coleridge’s theory of Iago. Spencer stated: “… he (Coleridge) was wrong. Most of us have met an Iago in our lives; people who can’t look on other people’s happiness without sneering and who have a vast back catalogue of real or imagined grievances.
For them the vicious malignity is one of life’s few pleasures. ” I totally agree with Spencer’s statement. In my opinion, Iago personifies and is the complete embodiment of all of the dark sides of human nature. These, in my mind, are the key factors that guarantee the fact that Iago is one of the most frightfully familiar yet most far-fetched characters in ‘Othello’. Spencer assumes that Iago’s motives are the overall congenial and entirely gratifying feelings that he acquires from viewing the demolition that he produced through his vindictive and menacing character.
With this statement Spencer insinuates that although Iago does possess a soul, he is so infatuated by evil and filled with insatiable appetite for other ‘lesser’ people’s misery and despair that he only really feels alive when his malicious plans and immoral actions begin to have his desired effect: “Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me, For making him egregiously an ass. ” Norman Sanders and Redman are two critics who believe that there are more deep-rooted reasons that explain Iago’s hurtful behaviour.
They believe Iago’s need to obliterate everything that is attractive is part of a cavernous and veiled area of his destructive personality and even his sexual orientation. Norman Sanders stated: “Latent homosexuality and deep-rooted misogyny have been cited as the real driving force of his nature. ” The stage portrayal of Iago is often effeminate and womanly and therefore ignites notions of him being a subdued and reticent homosexual whose shamefully twisted character is dealing with a reprehensible, deep and dark secret in the one and only way that he deems acceptable and appropriate.
Throughout history homosexuality has not only been viewed upon as being contemptible and evil but also highly prohibited and illegal. Hence, these negative views of homosexuality would have been encircled all around Iago, thus installing into him, if indeed he was a homosexual, a feeling of little worth and self-hatred. It would also present a reason as to why he had such a strong sense of loathing towards people involved in heterosexual relationships, and would therefore be accepted into society in a way that he believed that he never would be, and would also explain why he had such a colossal fascination in the ruin of such relationships.
Iago states about Desdemona; “I do love her too, Not out of absolute lust … But partly led to diet my revenge. ” This quotation insinuates that Iago is using Desdemona to gain revenge on Othello as he is jealous of her relationship with the man that he is possibly in love with. This reasoning creates a slight feeling of sympathy, within the audience, for Iago as it seems that he is this evil as he cannot accept his sexual feelings and so has to take all his pent up anger and sexual frustration out on the person he loves and others that love him.
Redman concurs with these assumptions, his description of Iago reads: “… a repressed homosexual who acts out as he cannot accept his sexual orientation. ” In conclusion, I believe that the full extent of Iago’s entirely complex and utterly confusing psyche will never be wholly understood yet will remain to be unnaturally familiar to audiences worldwide. My inclination is that Iago has no real motives behind his atrocious actions and behaviour.
However, I do believe that he has a magnificent and intricate imagination that enables this wicked creature to think up and believe that what he does to others surrounding him is totally tolerable and deserved. The fact that his deeds bring ruin and total destruction to the lives and relationships of the people around him not only excites him but is the source of his fantastical pleasure and unperturbed feeling of gratification. Finally, Iago, in my mind, is one character who will be analysed for many years to come but as before he will never be understood or fully comprehended.