Iago's crimes define pathological jealousy and a sheer desire for revenge. His acts
are pre-meditated and have reasons. In various soliloquies, he reveals grudges that, while
mostly false or overblown, present themselves as clear to Iago. Iago masters duplicity,
even remarking himself "I am not what I am." (line 67) Many of his dark motives are
probably concealed from the audience. In his few soliloquies, he presents definitive
motives for his vengeful desires. His passions are so dark that they can only be understood
by himself.
The first scene depicts Iago conversing with Roderigo. Iago's goals, grudges, and
furthermore his motives are revealed. His plan is calculated and pre-meditated with
Roderigo being a mere source of cash. Iago explains his disbelief on not being selected for
lieutenant. He boasts of his military victories "at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds/
Christened and heathen, must be beleed and calmed/ By debitor and creditor." (lines 30-
32) Iago was denied a position of high valor and takes umbrage to the person responsible.
That person is Othello. Othello chooses Michael Cassio, whom Iago denounces as "a
Florentine." (line 21) Iago has been beaten by a Florentine with (as Iago thinks) less
military ability than him. This deep wound commands Iago to revenge.
Iago cannot bear Othello's being a superior figure. Iago comments on Othello's
going to war as "Another of his fathom they have none/ To lead their business." (lines
153-154) Iago insults Othello's skin color profusely behind his back. As the first part of his
plan, Iago seeks to arouse Brabantio to the fact that the Moor has "robbed" (line 88) him
of his daughter. Iago refers to Othello as an "old black ram/ tupping your white ewe." This
tasteless reference pictures Othello's ugly black skin with Desdemona's beautiful white
skin. Iago convinces Brabantio that he must rescue his daughter from "the devil," another
racial reference to Othello's black skin. Iago never identifies Othello except with remarks
such as "the Barbary horse" mounting Desdemona. Brabantio's cousins, Iago rages "will
be jennets," (line 14) black Spanish horses. The racism and hatred behind Iago is only
worsened by Othello's high position and high popularity with the people; far higher than
Iago will ever reach. Thus, Iago hatches a plot, not out of sheer malice or insanity, but out
of a pathological jealousy beyond comprehension.
Othello demonstrates his noble nature when confronted by Brabantio. He coolly
remarks "I must be found./ My parts, my title, and my perfect soul/ Shall manifest me
rightly." (lines 30-32) This remarkable presentation even causes Iago to swear in
appreciation, "By Janus." He is insanely jealous over Othello's skill. The Duke does not
even notice Brabantio just greets Othello as "valiant Othello." (line 48) Iago's first plan is
foiled by the composure and sheer power of Othello. This only maddens Iago.
Later, Iago scorns the Moor and Cassio. While his many accusations are
unbelievable, they present motive and a pathological desire to ruin these people's lives for
specific reasons. Iago believes that Othello won Desdemona, not by stories of perils, but
by "bragging and telling her fanatical lies." (line 216) Iago also denounces Cassio as "a
slipper and subtle knave, a finder out of occasions, that has an eye can stamp and
counterfeit advantages, though true advantage never present itself; a devilish knave." (lines
229-231) Iago is able to denounce anyone through fictitious reasoning. In this way, he can
make up reasons to seek revenge on innocent people. He also scoffs at Cassio's courteous
remarks to women. He says that Desdemona is a "most exquisite lady . . . most fresh and
delicate . . . indeed perfection." (lines 16-22) Iago mocks him "Well, happiness to their
sheets!" (line 23) While these are blatantly libelous remarks, Iago sees these damning traits
and gives bold reasons for plotting against Othello and Cassio.
In a soliloquy, Iago gives a clear presentation of his grievances. These vile lies are
believable only to Iago. He states, "Now, I do love her too,/Not out of absolute lust-
through peradventure/ I stand accountant for as great a sin-/ But partly led to diet my
revenge . . . The lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat . . . And nothing shall content my
soul/ Till I am evened with him wife for wife . . . I fear Cassio with my nightcap too."
(lines 265-280) Though these accusations are false and have no basis, Iago displays his
grudges and motives to himself. Though Iago may be stretching the bounds of