David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies enlightens us on the ancient: Iago’s machinations yield him both “sport” and “profit” (1.3.387); that is, he enjoys his evildoing, although he is also driven by a motive.
A rather obvious theme in the Shakespeare's tragedy, "Othello", is that of the many facets of jealousy, which instigate the evil-doings of protagonist, Iago....
The character of Iago is one of the supererogations of Shakespear's genius. Some persons, more nice than wise, have thought this whole character unnatural, because his villainy is without a sufficient motive. Shakespear, who was as good a philosopher as he was a poet, thought otherwise. He knew that the love of power, which is another name for the love of mischief, is natural to man. He would know this as well or better than if it had been demonstrated to him by a logical diagram, merely from seeing children paddle in the dirt or kill flies for sport. Iago in fact belongs to a class of character, common to Shakespear and at the same time peculiar to him; whose heads are as acute and active as their hearts are hard and callous. Iago is to be sure an extreme instance of the kind; that is to say, of diseased intellectual activity, with the most perfect indifference to moral good or evil, or rather with a decided preference of the latter, because it falls more readily in with his favourite propensity, gives greater zest to his thoughts and scope to his actions. He is quite or nearly as indifferent to his own fate as to that of others; he runs all risks fo a trifling and doubtful advantage; and is himself the dupe and victim of his ruling passion-an in-satiable craving after action of the most difficult and dangerous kind. "Our ancient" is a philosopher, who fancies that a lie that kills has more point in it than an alliteration or an antithesis; who thinks a fatal experiment on the peace of a family a better thing than watching the palpitations in the heart of a flea in a microscope; who plots the ruin of his friends as an exercise for his ingenuity, and stabs men in the dark to prevent ennui. His gaiety, such as it is, arises from the success of his treachery; his ease from the torture he has inflicted on others. He is an amateur of tragedy in real life; and instead of employing his invention on imaginary characters, or long-forgotten incidents, he takes the bolder and more desperate course of getting up his plot at home, casts the principal parts among his nearest friends and connections, and rehearses it in down-right earnest, with steady nerves and unabated resolution. We will just give an illustration or two.
One of his most characteristic speeches is that immediately after the marriage of Othello.
"Roderigo. What a full fortune does the thick lips owe,
If lie can carry her thus!
Iago. Call up her father:
Rouse him (Othello) make after him, poison his delight,
Proclaim him in the streets, incense her kinsmen,
And tho' he in a fertile climate dwell,
Plague him with flies: tho' that his joy be joy,
Yet throw such changes of vexation on it,
As it may lose some colour."
Not the unjust suspicions of Othello, not Iago's unprovoked treachery, place Desdemona in a more amiable or interesting light than the conversation (half earnest, half jest) between her and Æmilia on the common behaviour of women to their husbands. This dialogue takes place just before the last fatal scene. If Othello had overheard it, it would have prevented the whole catastrophe; but then it would have spoiled the play.
During most of the Act the audience finds itself constantly trying to find a motive for Iago’s actions but finds none that can justify what he is about to do.
However, his motives lose sight from just Othello as Iago's psychopathic nature is prevalent through the havoc forced on other characters and especially his euphemisms towards Emelia potentially cheating.
Iago's function, which invariably adds to the importance he has on the play, is to lead to the downfall of Othello therefore revealing the themes of hate, jealousy and revenge....
Iago actually possesses all of the typical villainous qualities, however Iago conducts himself with great composure, and by manipulating his counterparts, he makes people believe he is on their side....
Hudson, who wrote nearly a hundred years ago, saw that Iago was not acting from revenge, one is more than surprised to find modern critics, who have had the advantage of the progress that has been made in the study of abnormal psychology, accepting Iago for anything but what he is, and what Shakespeare i...
In Shakespeare’s Four Giants Blanche Coles comments on the mental illness that appears to afflict the despicable Iago: When such old time critics as H.
Goddard writes that Iago consciously and unconsciously seeks to destroy the lives of others, especially others with high moral standards (Goddard 76). However, Iago is more than just a "moral pyromaniac," he is a moral pyromaniac whose fire is fueled by pure hatred. He is a hungry powermonger whose appetite for destruction can only be satisfied after he has chewed up and spat out the lives of others. Iago lusts for power, but his sense of power is attained by manipulating and annihilating others in a cruel and unusual way. Iago prepares and ignites his victims and then watches, with an e...
Even in the twenty-first century, many critics still believe that Shakespeare’s Desdemona in Othello has no other purpose than to be a puppet in Iago’s diabolical plan.
Campbell in Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes expounds on the self-centered philosophy of Iago: To Iago love is merely “a lust of the blood and a permission of the will”.