An Analysis of Iago’s Morality in Othello, a Play by William Shakespeare

Is lago evil or does he have logical or even good motives? His motives cannot be called “good” according to any definition of the word. lago is evil because good motives express love, place others above self, and intend to benefit others. First, lago by no mean performs his actions out of love. In Act One Scene One, the very beginning of the play, lago repeatedly informs Roderigo of his hatred of the Moor. From then on, lago’s hatred of Othello is obvious; lago constantly plots horrible thing which will cause Othello pain and suffering. lago’s hatred even takes on a dark nature of its own.

“I hate the Moor, And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets ‘Has done my office.”(lago, 1.3.429-31). Notice lago does not say “I hate the Moor, Because”; he says “I hate the Moor, And”. This wording suggests lago’s hatred of Othello is independent of any cause. Othello and Emilia’s supposed infidelity does not caused lago’s hatred because the hate is preexisting. Second, lago does not get Roderigo, Desdemona, Emilia, and Othello killed for a selfless reason. One of lago’s reasons for doing these horrible things is he wants to be lieutenant, which is a selfish and bad reason to get people killed.

“I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof At Rhodes, at Cyprus… must be beleed and calmed by debitor and creditor.”(lago, 1.1.29 33). Iago thinks he deserves the lieutenancy because he has proven himself in battle. Thus, how dare a mere bookkeeper keep him from his rightful position. Selfishly, lago becomes willing to do anything and hurt anyone, even his wife, to become lieutenant. lago also selfishly lets his hatred destroy lives. He allows his plot to exact revenge and to gain the lieutenancy expand irresponsibly. Lastly, lago intends to benefit no one but himself. He desires for his plan to harm Cassio and Othello. The entire goal of the first action of lago’s plan is to get Cassio fired. In Act two, lago convinces Cassio to drink to the point of drunkenness and has Roderigo anger him.

Then in Act five, lago and Roderigo attempts to kill Cassio; this definitely is not intending to benefit others. lago also wants to ruin Othello’s marriage. “O, you are well tuned now, But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music.” (lago, 2.2.218-19). lago clearly states he means to ruin Othello and Desdemona’s marital harmony at which he succeeds. lago lies to Othello about an affair between Desdemona and Cassio. Othello then becomes so suspicious of Desdemona’s infidelity he agrees to kill her when lago suggests he should. Again, lago helps no one but himself. When one examines the definition of good motives, it becomes apparent lago is in fact evil. Hatred, selfishness, and intent to cause harm motivated lago. These are the antonyms of a good motive. Therefore, lago must be evil.

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