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Thread: Iago's problem w/ Othello

  1. #1

    Arrow Iago's problem w/ Othello

    Why does Iago hate Othello so much? This play confused me in the beginning.

    Sparknotes.com says:"Iago says he hates Othello, who recently passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced soldier Michael Cassio."

    I feel like there's a lot more to it than that. This question is on my study guide for a long essay question on my final on Friday so I was wondering if you all could help me prepare in case I need to answer it.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    oops...friday probably passed by now.

    The reason for which Iago hates Othello aren't really clear. At first it seems he is plotting because Othello gave the job of lieutenant to Cassio who has never before fought on a battle field unlike Iago, making Iago believe he is more qualified. But later on in the play, Iago is made lieutenant yet he still continues and agrees to kill Cassio. Soon after that, he said he knew of rumors that Othello slept with his wife. Emilia also knows of these rumors, and both accept that it is untrue. All the reasons he gives seem plausible at first glancebut when you think about it, can't work. I think the reason is that Iago actually hates himself. Iago sees in Othello and Cassio things that aren't in him which makes him despise himself. "If Cassio do remain He hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly" Iago recognizes in Cassio an admirable quality of life which is there for all to see. Also, Iago's own marraige is quite unstable, and perhaps seeing Desdamona's and Othello's marriage makes him uneasy.

  3. #3
    adversa virtute repello the Last 13's Avatar
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    even tho its passed friday......mikini I think you get alot of it....its been a while since I read othello....but you also have to take into consideration that othello is black and is more respected by everyone......and although the possibility of othello sleeping with iago's wife is disproven (if you're right)...the fact that the rumor exists is enough for iago to be upset and feel justified in his course of action....

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    Just another nerd RobinHood3000's Avatar
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    In my opinion, I really don't think there's any real reason for Iago doing what he does other than that it's in his character. Both the promotion and the alleged adultery with Emilia are extremely tenuous reasons for Iago to go through so much trouble, and neither receives much emphasis. The racial thing is a possibility, in which case Shakespeare may have wanted to underplay it, since telling an Elizabethan audience that racism is bad is likely to get him lynched. As written, though, I think Iago is simply evil.
    "Now I did a job. I ain't got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regards to my character, so let me make this abundantly clear: I do the job. And then I get paid."

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  5. #5
    Thinking...thinking! dramasnot6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinHood3000 View Post
    In my opinion, I really don't think there's any real reason for Iago doing what he does other than that it's in his character. Both the promotion and the alleged adultery with Emilia are extremely tenuous reasons for Iago to go through so much trouble, and neither receives much emphasis. The racial thing is a possibility, in which case Shakespeare may have wanted to underplay it, since telling an Elizabethan audience that racism is bad is likely to get him lynched. As written, though, I think Iago is simply evil.
    I believe there IS more to that, Shakespeare displays too complex an understanding of the prejudices of his society in that play to just label Iago as "evil" and merely enforce ( like all other traditional writers of his time) his society's already strong moral restrictions.
    In my interpretation, I view each of the characters in Othello as a device of Shakespeare's to question his societys prejudice against both women and the "other". Look at the characters that support and like Othello. Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia, they are all portrayed as "good" people by Elizabethan standards, and therefore each contain positive connotations. For example, Desdemona is presented as the "ideal" woman of the time, loyal, pure and chaste, obedient...and yet she loves Othello. By associating Othello with positive connotations, Shakespeare is subtly influencing the audience to associate the "other" with more postive, open-minded thoughts. Iago is the epitome of racism at the time, and is presented negatively in the fullest. Doesn't this also mean racism is presented negatively? Who do we "trust" as a society more in the play, the "moor" or the Venetian Iago who conforms to a cultural identity we are comfortable with? We trust Othello, how strange.

    But to the topic, I think Iago hates Othello on several levels. First, it is his actions of not giving him the position of Lieutenant ( stirring outraged honor in Iago). Second, it is the general resentment Iago has of Othello being "black" and yet a superior, like Iago attempting to set right the Chain of Being. In a way anger, jealousy, and outraged honor are Iago's devices to plot against people, but at the same time they are his motivations to plot in the first place. Misery loves company,eh?
    I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.


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  6. #6
    I couldn't agree with you more. Every line is full of metaphor and double entendres. Why would Iago be simply the "evil" guy in the play.

    Everyone has a certain respect for Othello (as a warrior) but because he is black, Desdemona could only love him from potions or witchcraft. That speaks volumes to me; as they would sooner believe in mystical coercion than to believe in a white woman loving a moor. Not only did his father speak this, the elite entertained this malarkey.
    Scott
    When devils will the blackest sins put on,
    They do suggest at first with heavenly shows. - Othello
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    Thinking...thinking! dramasnot6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mo_dingo View Post
    I couldn't agree with you more. Every line is full of metaphor and double entendres. Why would Iago be simply the "evil" guy in the play.

    Everyone has a certain respect for Othello (as a warrior) but because he is black, Desdemona could only love him from potions or witchcraft. That speaks volumes to me; as they would sooner believe in mystical coercion than to believe in a white woman loving a moor. Not only did his father speak this, the elite entertained this malarkey.
    Scott
    Very true, I too found it realistic for the prejudice of the time for them to assume he used witchcraft. Sort of like in the Crucible with accusations of Tituba. I found it especially interesting that Othello thought Desdemona to love him only out of pity, perhaps this stirred some internalized racism in Othello and insecurity that led to his self-destruction. For if he TRULY was secure of their love, would he be so quick to believe Iago?
    I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.


    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

  8. #8
    The irrationality of intense dislike. He literally does not like his face. What motives would he admit to himself? Only those of which he is conscious and which he would justify as valid. Do I make myself obscure?

  9. #9
    Thinking...thinking! dramasnot6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ennison View Post
    The irrationality of intense dislike. He literally does not like his face. What motives would he admit to himself? Only those of which he is conscious and which he would justify as valid. Do I make myself obscure?
    Absolutely clear ennison I agree. He is the ultimate reflection of Elizabethan prejudice. Perhaps Shakespeare was trying to send the message that prejudice itself was irrational.
    I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.


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  10. #10
    Iago hates Othello so much because Othello slept with Emilia (as well as many other reasons). There is proof in how Emilia responds to Desdimona's view on cheating and the sexes. There is more proof at the end of the play,

    "Othello: I do believe it, and I ask your pardon. Will you, I pray demand that demi-devil why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?

    Iago: Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word.

    .....
    Othello: Well, thou dost best."

    Iago tells him he knows what he did, then Othello says Iago does best not to tell why he did what he did. Othello knows what he did and knows it will tarnish his image further if Iago went into further detail.

  11. #11
    The Word is Serendipitous Lote-Tree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richey View Post
    Iago hates Othello so much because Othello slept with Emilia (as well as many other reasons). There is proof in how Emilia responds to Desdimona's view on cheating and the sexes. There is more proof at the end of the play,
    Iago is personification of the darkness in the human soul. He finds any excuses to hate. He thrives on the hatred and he knows it.
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  12. #12
    Maybe it's Iago's problem with Iago...

    You could go for the interpretation that Iago wanted Othello. It's not inconceivable...

  13. #13
    Iago’s gay and loves Othello
    Iago is in love with Desdemona
    Othello may have slept with Emilia/ some other women Iago is dating
    Othello didn’t promote him
    Iago actually hates himself
    Othello’s a moor/black --> racism

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by sympathy027 View Post
    Iagoís gay and loves Othello
    Iago is in love with Desdemona
    Othello may have slept with Emilia/ some other women Iago is dating
    Othello didnít promote him
    Iago actually hates himself
    Othelloís a moor/black --> racism
    Indeed, there are a variety of reasons. What it comes down to is that Othello, despite being the foreigner, has all the privileges of society, whereas Iago is stuck at the bottom.

  15. #15
    Iago hates Othello because Othello gave the lieutenant position to Cassio who has no experience on the battlefield whatsoever, while Iago has fought alongside Othello for years and has personally observed his skills and merits. Iago gives a great speech about it in the beginning of the play. He also hates him because he heard a rumor that Othello slept with his wife, Emilia.

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