One of the most interesting and exotic characters in the tragic play “Othello”, by William Shakespeare, is “honest” Iago. At first Iagoseems to be motiveless. However, the motivation behind his actions lie more inIago’s quest for personal gain, as opposed to just being evil for evil’s sake.
Iago’s greediness can be validated by examining his manipulation of Roderigo,Cassio, and most importantly, Othello. Iago’s main interest is the destructionof Othello. The reason being that Othello has chosen another man, Cassio, as hissecond-in-command, preferring him to Iago. This resentment, accompanied byIago’s accusations of adultery and his blatant racism, cause Iago to despise thekindly moor. Because Iago is much too smart to immediately kill Othello, heproceeds with the arduous process of dismantling him emotionally. Iago alsoknows he must distance himself from any part of this, so he cleverly getssomeone to do his dirty work. The first to fall victim to Iago’s manipulation ishalf-witted Roderigo. Iago knows Roderigo is consumed by lust for Desdemona, andwould do what it takes to make her his own. Iago tells Roderigo that the onlyway to win Desdemona’s love is to make money to procure gifts for her. “Putmoney in thy purse…”(act I scene 3 line 339). However Iago is just takingthose gifts intended for Desdemona and keeping them for himself, and making aprofit. Roderigo eventually starts to question Iago’s honesty. When faced withthe accusations, Iago simply offers that the killing of Cassio will aid in hiscause and Roderigo falls for it. In doing this, Iago keeps Roderigo in the darkand continues to profit from him monetarily. Roderigo is also used as a devicein both Cassio and Othello’s downfall. Iago’s actions demonstrate his monetaryand power based motivations, invalidating the claim that Iago is evil for evil’ssake. Cassio like Roderigo follows Iago blindly, thinking the whole time thatIago is trying to aid him, when in fact Iago, motivated by his lust for power,is attempting to remove Cassio of his position as lieutenant. With Roderigo’shelp Iago causes Cassio to forfeit his position as Othello’s second-in-command.
Cassio is also used to bring out the monster inside of Othello. In Iago’sexploitation of Cassio, it is clear to see that, although evil in his deeds,Iago is strictly motivated by his hunger for power. As mentioned earlier, Iago’smain intention lies in the degradation of Othello. Iago feels that he was bestsuited to hold the position of lieutenant, as opposed to Michael Cassio. Fromthis Iago manufactures accusations of adultery, claiming that Othello has sleptwith his wife, Emilia. “…Twixt my sheets/ he’s done my office.”(ActI scene 3 line 380) These accusations are merely excuses to validate his ownpleasant acts and greed, and should be seen as nothing more. Again it’s plain tosee that, in Iago’s deception of Othello he is motivated by his jealousy andsubsequent bitterness. In conclusion, it’s evident that Iago is evil for greed’ssake, as opposed to evil for evil’s sake. His craving can be seen in his clevermanipulation of Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello. He uses Roderigo for his ownfinancial benefit, as well as support his master plan; the destruction ofOthello. Cassio was unfortunate enough to be chosen ahead of Iago as Othello’ssecond-in-command, and was reduced to a deteriorated state by Iago because ofit. Lastly, driven by his bitterness towards Othello for choosing Cassio overhim, Iago takes it upon himself to ensure Othello’s demise. Iago is an extremelycomplex character, and far from ordinary. His complexity and uniqueness makeshim one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains.