.. o substitute for real motives, Iago treats rumors like they were facts and invents situations that never happened in order to suit the ends he wishes to achieve. The Furness Variorum Edition points out that Iago admits in his first soliloquy that the affair between Othello and Emilia is only a rumor (p.120-121). And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets/ he has done my office. I know not ift be true/ But I, for mere suspicion in that kind/ Will do as if for surety (369-372).
Iago has no reason to hate Othello, but because he is an evil person Iago wants to ruin Othellos life. Iago heard a rumor that Othello had slept with Emilia, and he declares that he will believe this rumor as if it were a fact. By the time Iago says his second soliloquy, he has convinced himself that Othello and Emilia had an affair. He is able to say that Othello hath leapt into my seat (283) with such conviction because in his head Iago has made the rumor a fact. This shows that Iago has no motives for destroying Othello.
He invents reasons why he hates Othello, and these reasons lead to the end that Iago envisions, not the logical end that these motives should reach. In this soliloquy the hypocrisy of Iagos motives and actions is also visible. Iago says that he wants to be even with Othello wife for wife yet he does nothing to try and get in bed with Desdemona. Instead of wooing Desdemona, Iago spends his energy on trying to break up the marriage of Desdemona and Othello. Othello did not break up Iagos marriage by sleeping with Emilia; it is never proven that this even happened. Therefore, breaking up Othellos marriage does not get Iago revenge in any way.
The only way that Iagos actions could be the result of his motives is if he is jealous of Othello for sleeping with Emilia. If Iago was jealous then making Othello jealous would be an appropriate form of revenge. However, Iago does not seem to regard Emilia as a wife, and he uses her to forward his plans in the same way that he uses Roderigo. Iago is not jealous of Emilia and Othello and, therefore, he acts without motive. In the final conversation Iago is speaking with Cassio instead of Roderigo.
Now that Cassio has been removed from his position as Othellos lieutenant he is very vulnerable, and wants only to win Othellos trust again. Iago pretends to be Cassios friend and uses Cassio to begin the second phase of his plan. Iago suggests that Cassio request the help of Desdemona to try and win back the respect of Othello. This is a good idea for two reasons. First, Desdemona is a person that cannot turn her back on someone in need, such as Cassio.
Secondly, Othello is under Desdemonas control. Othello loves Desdemona so much that if she believes Cassio to be trustworthy, Othello will believe it also. Our generals wife is now the general Confess yourself freely to her. Importune her help to put you in your place again. She is of so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than is requested (292-298).
Iagos hypocrisy is again illustrated here. In this passage Iago admires and respects Desdemonas personality. However, as the New Arden Shakespeare shows, Iago attacked and ridiculed Desdemona in a previous conversation with Roderigo (p. 201). Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is unintelligent because she is enamored with a pestilent complete knave (239) like Cassio.
Iago says this to infuriate Roderigo. By hearing Iago describe Desdemona as an average person Roderigo will want to prove him wrong. Roderigo will also want to win Desdemona from Cassio, who Iago described as unworthy of Desdemona. When Iago again speaks of Desdemona, this time to Cassio, his opinion of her has changed drastically. Here she is described as blessed (297), when Iago made an issue of proving that Desdemona is not blessed when speaking with Roderigo.
Iago speaks highly of Desdemona to Cassio so that Cassio will speak to her about Othello. Cassio thinks that Iago is honest (309) and trusts the advice that Iago gives. Iago acts in any way that helps him destroy Othello. Iago manipulates his words and uses Cassio and Roderigo as mere means to his own ends. Iago makes it seem as if he is helping Cassio because he is a genuine friend.
However, in the soliloquy following the reader learns the real reason why Iago is helping Cassio. Iagos biggest aim is to ruin the marriage of Othello and Desdemona. If Cassio asks Desdemona for help and Desdemona speaks highly of him to Othello, it could appear that the two are in love. Iago plans to show Othello how often they are together and how close they are. Seeing this will make Othello jealous. Ill pour this pestilence into his ear:/ That she repeals him for her bodys lust/ And by how much she strives to do him good/ She shall undo her credit with the Moor/ So I will turn her virtue into pitch/ And out of her own goodness make the net/ That shall enmesh them all (330-336).
At this point in the play, Iagos plan is underway. Cassio is no longer Lieutenant, and the evidence of the affair between Cassio and Desdemona is ready to be shown to Othello. This is a good concluding soliloquy, because it foreshadows what will happen. Iago will constantly show Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are deceiving him, while Desdemona will constantly tell Othello what a good man Cassio is. These two factors, plus Cassio and Desdemona always being together, will prove to Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are in love.
Through much deceit and manipulation Iago will drive Othello into madness and ruin the lives of everyone. Iago never gives a logical reason for ruining the lives of Othello, Desdemona and Cassio. Iago claims that Othello slept with Emilia, and he feels that he must have revenge. However, Iago never makes any attempt to sleep with Desdemona, and he never tries to revenge Emilias honor. Instead, Iago destroys Othellos marriage, which is illogical given Iagos stated motive.
Othello did not ruin Iagos marriage. Iago even admits that he is not sure if Othello and Emilia were ever together. Yet he uses this as a motive for revenge anyway, because this allows him to accomplish all of his goals. Iago becomes Othellos Lieutenant, and destroys Othellos marriage. Iago acts in this illogical manner because he is a naturally bad person who has no real reason to hate Othello.
Iago changes his opinions and makes up events in order to ruin the lives of those around him. I ago is, as Coleridge said, motiveless malignity. Bibliography Furness, Horace Howard, A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Othello. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, copyright 1886. Honigmann, E.A.J.
The Arden Shakespeare: Othello. Surrey, UK: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd, 1997. Shakespeare, William. Othello. The Norton Shakespeare.
Ed. Greenblatt, Stephen et al. W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 1997. Pp. 2100-2172.