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Why does Iago hate Othello?

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The showdown between Iago and Othello is one of the central issues of Shakespeare’s play. There are two core reasons for Iago’s hate towards Othello:

  • career issues
  • personal offenses.

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Detailed answer:

The first reason for Iago’s rage at Othello lies behind his career dismay. Iago is confident about his professional skills. So, he believes that he is the best candidate for the lieutenant position. However, Othello appoints Michael Cassio, a less qualified person, according to Iago’s opinion.

This issue is vital to Iago. He claims that Othello’s choice is not reasonable since he doesn’t follow the skilled military men’s advice. Instead, Othello selects a man who has no battle experience:

‘I have already chose my officer.’
And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn’d in a fair wife;
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the toged consuls can propose
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
Is all his soldiership.
(Act 1, Scene 1)

The seemingly unfair decision attacks Iago’s self-worth. He firmly believes that he is more skilled and qualified than the newly-appointed Cassio. This is a legitimate reason for Iago’s negative feelings towards Othello.

Moreover, Iago later uses Cassio in his insidious plan. The villain created it to punish both Othello and Cassio for injustice.

The second explanation of conflict between Iago and Othello is the personal relationship. Villain suspects his wife, Emilia, in her disloyalty and sexual betrayal:

I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety.
(Act 1, Scene 3)

Iago accuses Othello of sleeping with Emilia, despite the absence of evidence to support that. Thus, it is difficult to figure out whether the reasons are real. Or maybe they are just merely made up by Iago to justify his negative attitude towards Othello.

There is no proof for the accusation. So, it seems that Iago wants to find as many things as possible to hate Othello. At some point in the play, Iago himself mentions that he is unsure whether Emilia cheats on him or not. His negative emotions pile up on top of each other, justifying the last acts of vengeance. For Iago, it is unclear why Othello chooses Cassio. Thus, he finds numerous reasons to get back at Othello.

The conflict between Othello and Iago reflects normal human relationships. The manipulation and mix of facts are common problems among people even nowadays. In Shakespeare’s Othello, human relationships are raw. So, it is easy to get lost in the characters’ real emotions. That is what happens with Iago. He gets overwhelmed with his feelings. As a result, he harms many innocent people.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Why does Iago hate Othello'. 19 November.

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