Iago is a “moral pyromaniac.” Harold C. Goddard writes that Iagoconsciously and unconsciously seeks to destroy the lives of others, especiallyothers with high moral standards (Goddard 76). However, Iago is more thanjust a “moral pyromaniac,” he is a moral pyromaniac whose fire is fueled bypure hatred. He is a hungry powermonger whose appetite for destruction canonly be satisfied after he has chewed up and spat out the lives of others. Iagolusts for power, but his sense of power is attained by manipulating andannihilating others in a cruel and unusual way.
Iago prepares and ignites hisvictims and then watches, with an excitable evil in his eye, as his humanpyres go up in flames.
Iago undeniably has an unquenchable thirst for power and domination. Critics such as M. R. Ridley believe that the ability to hurt is the mostconvincing display of one’s power (Ridley lxi). Iago has a deep, inbreddesire to cause and view intolerable suffering. The power of Iago isexercised when he prepares and then implements an evil plan designed toinflict man with the most extreme amounts of anguish possible.
Iago controlsthe play, he brilliantly determines how each character shall act and react. Heis a pressing advocate of evil, a pernicious escort, steering good peopletoward their own vulgar destruction. Iago must first make careful preparations in order to make certain his fireof human destruction will burn with fury and rage. He douses his victimswith a false sense of honesty and goodness. And, as do most skillfulpyromaniacs, Iago first prepares his most important target, Othello: Though in the trade of war I have slain men,Yet do I hold it very stuff o’th’ conscience To do no contrived murder. I lack the iniquity. . . I had thought t’have yerked him under the ribs . . . . . .he prated And spoke such scurvy and provoking terms Against your Honor (I, ii 1-10).
These sentences are obvious lies (to the reader), but they are crucial to thesaboteur because they present Iago to Othello as a brave, loyal, and moralperson. Iago indirectly and cleverly portrays himself as a man ready to fightand brave enough to kill; yet, he also wants Othello to believe that he wouldnot kill without just reason. Iago pretends to be so loyal as to be tempted tokill any slanderer of Othello. It is evident that Othello has complete faith inIago’s claims as he states “thou’rt full of love and honesty” and “O brave Iago,honest and just” (III, iii 136IV, i 34). Iago douses more dishonesty ontoother characters such as Cassio who trusts Iago: “You advise me well. . . Goodnight, honest Iago,” and Desdemona who calls Iago “an honest fellow”(II, iii 3463555). Iago’s deceitfulness is best epitomized by his ability tocontinually dupe Roderigo into serving his own insidious desires. Iago,always the careful pyromaniac, successfully pours his fuel of deceptivenessonto the victims before he lights his match.
Once his victims are cloaked in misconception and dripping withinnocence, Iago can ignite his scrupulously prepared fire. His evil creation isready to burst into flames, “it is engendered. Hell and night. . .bring thismonstrous birth to the world’s light” (I, iii 446-447). Iago is the ultimateopportunist, he knows exactly where and when to strike. He is fully awarethat he can most malignantly destroy Cassio through dishonor, Othellothrough jealousy, Roderigo through naivet, and Desdemona through purity.
Iago is able to intoxicate Cassio, who has “very poor and unhappy brains fordrinking,” and, thus, dishonor him (II, iii 34). Iago pretends to be Cassio’sgood-old-drinking-buddy, but actually intends to embarrass him. Iago, thepyromaniac, proudly watches as Cassio goes up in flames: “I have lost myreputation. . .and what remains is bestial” (II, iii 282-283). Another log isthrust into the fire when Iago remarks that reputation, which Cassio hasdevoted his whole to building up, is “an idle and most false imposition” (II,iii 287). Iago seems to get a kick out of the amount of suffering he is able tocause. Iago completes his mission as a amateur pyromaniac, he has scorched hisfirst piece of furniture, but now he must become a professional arsonist andburn down the entire house. Iago concentrates on destroying Othello byturning “virtue into pitch. . .out of goodness make the net That shall enmeshthem all” (II, iii 380-383). Iago, the fire-breathing villain, continues his”bloody business” by tormenting Othello with specific, and often timesvulgar, descriptions of Desdemona’s alleged sexual exploits with Cassio. (III,iv 532). Iago provides everything but “ocular proof,” and eventually Othellobecomes so distraught and enraged that he falls into a seizure.Iagocontinues to add fuel to the fire until Desdemona and his own wife have beenmurdered, Cassio and Roderigo seriously wounded, and Othello has killedhimself. Iago lives only for the death of others. His inner fire is fueled byhatred and blood. Othello tries to kill Iago but he “cannot kill thee” (V, ii337). Othello tries to fight fire with fire when he stabs Iago. Iago is a”demi-devil,” a “pernicious caitiff,” a human sphere of maliciousness whocannot be killed by hate, for hate is what he lives for (V, ii 368375). ***Harold Goddard believes that if Iago were of less intelligence, he wouldhave been a true pyromaniac (Goddard 76). A dull-witted Iago might lightfires in forests, rather than in the minds of men. A unintelligent Iago mayenjoy watching trees ablaze and seething, rather than men. Goddard insiststhat Iago exhibits “dozens” of the characteristics of the typical pyromaniac(Goddard 76). His “secret joy” of observing his inferno in progress is themost obvious (Goddard 76).
As Goddard states, the true motive of Iago is his “underlying condition.” He is a “moral pyromaniac” and cannot help himself. On several occasionsIago consciously realizes that what he is doing is evil and desperatelysearches for motives. However the “reasons he assigns for his hatred in thecourse of the play are not so much motives as symptoms of a deeplyunderlying condition.” (Goddard 75).M. R. Ridley states that Iago’s actions are so vulgar and evil that only an”incarnate fiend” could apply them (Ridley lxi). Because Iago’s actions areso evil and his lust for power is so great, they must be innate characteristicsof a deranged man. No man could possibly learn to be as evil as Iago or toenjoy the demise of others as Iago did. Iago was born a “moral pyromaniac”and will enjoy suffering as long as he lives. Heaven for Iago is Hell. Iago continually seeks power through the destruction of others. He isinflicted with moral pyromania and is driven by an inborn urge to disgraceand demolish mankind. The ultimate goal of Iago and of every “moralpyromaniac” is to crush the sprits of others and to corrupt all that is virtuous. Iago succeeds by reaping havoc upon a group of moral and kind people. Hemay even enjoy his punishment: torture. Iago’s motivation is not a motivationat all, it is a disease; a disease that can only be cured in Hell. As long as Iagoexists on earth, there will always be another house to burn, another life toinflame. Works CitedGoddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespear. Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1960. 75-76.
Ridley, M. R. Othello. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959. lx-lxiii.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. New ————————————————————–
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Iago’s Motivation. (2019, Apr 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/iagos-motivation/