Critical Analysis of Iago's Soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 3 of Othello by William Shakespeare
Iago’s second soliloquy is very revealing. It shows him shaping a
plan out of the confusion of his emotionally charged thoughts. Iago
examines his own thoughts, especially his hatred for Othello: “The
Moor, howbeit that I endure him not” He is also suffering from the
“poisonous mineral” of jealousy that still swirls around the rumour
that Othello has slept with Emilia. Iago could get his revenge by
seducing Desdemona: “Now I do love her too … But partly led to diet
my revenge, for that I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leaped into my
seat, the thought whereof doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my
Iago uses the word “love” here in a very cynical, free way, making it
a combination of lust towards Desdemona and seeking power over
Othello, Cassio and Desdemona. At first he sees his seduction of
Desdemona as his revenge: “Till I am evened with him, wife for wife”.
Then Iago realizes that the jealousy that torments him is the very
weapon he can use against Othello, who will be even more susceptible.
Iago will lead Othello, via jealousy, to madness: “Make the Moor thank
me, love me, and reward me, for making him egregiously an ass”. At the
same time, his statements about what motivates him are hazy and
confusing. Is he motivated by lust for Desdemona, envy of Cassio, or
jealousy over his wife’s supposed affair with Othello? He even
suggests that Cassio might also have slept with his wife. It is as
though Iago mocks the audience for attempting to determine his
motives; he treats the audience as he does Othello and Roderigo,
leading his listeners “by th’ nose as asses are [led]”. For each of
Iago’s actions within the play, he creates a momentary and unimportant
justification possibly to please the audience.
The fifth (and last) appearance of "love" in Iago's soliloquy is most
surprising. He will report Cassio's designs toward Othello's...