With or without reasonable justification for revenge, Iago immediately starts to tear Othello apart by informing Brabantio (Desdemon's father, Othello;s wife) that she is out with a black ram and committing unjust acts.
As time progresses Iago becomes more wrapped up in his lies that he even begins to believe that Othello has slept with his own wife, Emelia, and now he has even more reason to hate "the ", "I hate the Moor and it is thought abroad that `twixt my sheets `has done my office"( 55:429-431).
How well these few words impress at the outset the truth of Othello's own character of himself at the end 'that he was not easily wrought!' His self-government contradistinguishes him throughout from Leontes.
Orson Welles seemed partial to this idea—his film version of the drama exploits the homoerotic undertones of the play, and Iago basically woos Othello away from Desdemona. If you think this idea may be worth exploring (or if you just want to know what the heck Orson Welles was thinking), be sure to check out the end of , where Othello makes Iago his new lieutenant and Iago vows to kill Cassio:
The forced praise of Othello followed by the bitter hatred of him in this speech! And observe how Brabantio's dream prepares for his recurrence to the notion of philtres, and how both prepare for carrying on the plot of the arraignment of Othello on this ground.
What? You don't like the "motiveless malignancy" theory? Here's another explanation that some critics like: Iago secretly wants to get it on with Othello and ends up hurting Othello because he's jealous of Desdemona.
Roderigo turns off to Othello; and here comes one, if not the only, seeming justification of our blackamoor or negro Othello. Even if we supposed this an uninterrupted tradition of the theatre, and that Shakspeare himself, from want of scenes, and the experience that nothing could be made too marked for the senses of his audience, had practically sanctioned it,would this prove aught concerning his own intention as a poet for all ages? Can we imagine him so utterly ignorant as to make a barbarous negro plead royal birth,at a time, too, when negroes were not known except as slaves?As for Iago's language to Brabantio, it implies merely that Othello was a Moor, that is, black. Though I think the rivalry of Roderigo sufficient to account for his wilful confusion of Moor and Negro,yet, even if compelled to give this up, I should think it only adapted for the acting of the day, and should complain of an enormity built on a single word, in direct contradiction to Iago's 'Barbary horse.' Besides, if we could in good earnest believe Shakspeare ignorant of the distinction, still why should we adopt one disagreeable possibility instead of a ten times greater and more pleasing probability? It is a common error to mistake the epithets applied by the dramatis personae to each other, as truly descriptive of what the audience ought to see or know. No doubt Desdemona saw Othello's visage in his mind; yet, as we are constituted, and most surely as an English audience was disposed in the beginning of the seventeenth century, it would be something monstrous to conceive this beautiful Venetian girl falling in love with a veritable negro.
Poet calls Iago "a being next to the devil, only not quite the devil" and goes on to call Iago's behavior "motiveless malignity." If we agree that Iago has no real motives for hurting Othello, we could also argue that Iago's character is a kind of "Vice" figure.
Most other Shakespearean characters do bad things in order to achieve a particular goal. Oftentimes the culprit is ambition, as in , or revenge, as in . The thing about Iago is this—we never really know for certain why it is that Iago wants to destroy Othello. Throughout the play, Iago provides multiple and incompatible motives for hating Othello. At one point, Iago says he's angry because Othello passed him over for a promotion.
In the due reverence of a sacred vow,
I here engage my words.
Do not rise yet. Iago kneels.
Witness, you ever-burning lights above,
You elements that clip us round about,
Witness that here Iago doth give up
The execution of his wit, hands, heart
To wronged Othello's service! Let him command,
And to obey shall be in me remorse,
What bloody business ever.
I am your own for ever. (3.4.523-532; 546)
We tend to think of evil people as being brutal and insensitive, or at least disconnected from the people they hurt. Iago, however, is able to hurt Othello so much because he understands him so well. He even grows closer to Othello as his plot progresses. Iago manipulates him so expertly that at times it seems he is actually inside Othello's head.