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Analysis Of Act Ii, Scene I Of Othello: Iago’s Character, Motivations, And Reasons For Success

2366 words - 9 pages

The most horrific thing a villain can do is commit a crime that results in several casualties and provide no explanation for the anguish he causes. Human nature drives people to yearn for the knowledge of why something occurred, and when a person thinks he is in possession of such knowledge, the illusion that controlling future events to prevent any further disruption in the natural order of things arises. If such a thing were possible, the answers criminals have provided over centuries past would have allowed governments to completely rid society of crime. However, people do not see this and still desire complete control, which, in turn, brings comfort to the soul. Unfortunately for the characters in William Shakespeare’s Othello, none of them are in control. The infamous villain Iago controls the other characters with such precision that they might as well be marionettes. He is the cause of several deaths at the conclusion of the play, and commits the ultimate crime by refusing to provide an explanation for his actions. Since Shakespeare’s Othello was printed in 1622, critics have gone back and forth about what Iago’s motives were, about who he was, and about why he was so very successful in carrying out his devious plans. So many countless people, so many countless ideas, and so many countless hours have been spent trying to answer these questions when Shakespeare answers them all in Act Two, scene one of Othello.

Act Two, scene one of Othello provides insight into Iago’s motives, character, and reasons for success through character interactions. Many spectators view the scene between Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia as a simple exchange of wit-combat that was common in Shakespeare’s day, or as another scene in which Iago expresses his hatred for women (Sproat 45). However, many different clues that allude to Iago’s motives are provided here and can only be realized after being read and then re-read, as argued by Sproat.

It is true that Iago is attacking women in this scene: “Come on, come on! You are pictures out of door…players in your huswifery, and huswives in your beds” (2.1.109-112). As he badmouths Emilia and then all women, he has two goals: the first is to make himself feel superior by attacking a group of people, women, who are generally thought of as being weak and easily dominated. The second is to win over Desdemona. Iago’s lack of confidence probably sprouts from the fact that he, as a seasoned soldier, was considered inferior for the officer’s position by Othello, a highly respected soldier (1.1.8-32). However, Desdemona and Emilia both challenge him and do not give him the satisfaction of feeling superior, feeding his hatred of women and feelings of insecurity even more. Iago belittles Emilia by saying, “Sir, would she give you so much of her lips/ as of her tongue bestows upon me…she puts her tongue a little in her heart/ and chides with thinking” (2.1.100-106). Emilia challenges him in return by saying, “You have little...

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