Othello and Iago Comparison
Othello and Iago are different in their characters as well as in their
colours. It could be said also, however, that they are similar because
of their fallibility. Iago is overcome with his desire for revenge to
such an extent that he puts it into action. Othello's love and
possessiveness of Desdemona take over him until he eventually would
rather kill her than allow anyone else to have her. In this way,
despite their contrasts, Iago and Othello both represent the extremity
of the same thing - human emotion.
Both characters can be viewed like this throughout Act 1. We
immediately see Iago as representative of the very basest elements of
humanity. He uses crude language. He swears:
and uses crude sexual and animal images to taunt Brabantio:
"an old black ram is tupping your white ewe"
By using the agricultural term for breeding or mating two beasts, Iago
reduces the act of love to a basic action. Othello, in contrast, uses
gentle and tender terms to describe his affection, and never mentions
it as simply a physical act. He says:
"I love the gentle Desdemona",
and this suffices to explain his feelings. It is obvious that Othello
is a much 'deeper', more sensitive man than Iago.
Another contrast is that Iago's motivation is himself and his
self-interest. Iago desires success and gain for himself and no other.
It appears that his major grudge against Othello is that he promoted
"a fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife"
(that is, Cassio) above himself. He speaks bitterly about Cassio and
his mathematical skills because of his self-interest - although to the
audience it may seem reasonable that a highly skilled statistician ad
tactician is given a higher posting. Another grudge is his suspicion
of Othello that
"twixt my sheets he has done my office"
Iago has heard a rumour that Othello has slept with his wife, and now
he wants revenge. But Iago does not feel betrayal by his wife, or feel
that she has been wronged; it appears to be just another excuse to get
back at Othello.