Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "Iago is a sociopath. He is reductive and destructive. He has enormous self regard. He destroys something potentially great."

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Iago is the ultimate villain. Completely amoral, he not only makes it his goal to destroy others, but he will use others to achieve that destruction even at the cost of their own destruction.

Iago's stated reason for the destruction of Othello is that Iago has been passed over for promotion by a less deserving individual, Cassio. Iago believes he is "owed" the promotion, simply because he is next in line. It is position, rather than ability, that is the reason for promotion, according to Iago. He therefore decides to destroy Othello, and Cassio as well.

Another hinted reason for his intended plot is the rumored infedility of his wife with Othello. It is not so much the possible fact that she has been unfaithful, but merely the rumor itself. It is public opinion rather than marital fidelity that is the cause for Iago's revenge A man whose wife has been unfaithful is termed a "cuckold." It is a mark of shame for a man to be cheated on. It is this shame that is one of the bases for Iago's plot.

Othello is described as "great of heart." He has shown, in his selection of Cassio over Iago, to be a man of great discernment. He knows and values the good for good's sake. This trait in a leader is of inestimable value. A general who will fight for the moral victory over the military victory is a rare thing in life. By the death of Othello, something great has passed from this world.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do agree that Iago is Shakespeare's most despicable villain because he demonstrates no moral ambiguity as Shakespeare's other villains do.  He shows no regret; he has no truly sound reason for his vengeance. So he was passed over for a promotion!  If that were really the reason for his destruction of Othello, he could have stopped with his plot after he brings down Cassio and finally has an "in" with Othello.  He chooses not to do so.  In addition to his scheme to destroy Othello and all in his way, Iago possesses almost all of the characteristics which humans associate with evil; he does not simply demonstrate one major flaw.

For example, he shows a tendency toward racism and uses others' racist ideas to stimulate racial tension and Othello's insecurity. He is sexist and not only uses his wife, but also belittles her and ultimately murders her. Iago represents a completely amoral individual.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How can you not agree with this statement?  Iago knows exactly what he is doing each and every time he plots.  He ruins Othello's marriage, and he ruins many lives (not the least of which is Desdemona's) in the process.  He acts with malice and premeditation.

moo2yoo | Student

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epollock | Student

Iago is the quintessential villain. I would say that the statement is partly true. I don't think that he has any regard for himself, because even stealing Roderigo's jewels, Iago was still scheming and plotting. Why didn't he take Roderigo's money and retire? He was not only villainous, he was stupid as well. He wasn't happy until everyone was ruined and he staked his life on it.

I would say that he didn't destroy something potentially great, the people he destroyed were already in high positions. Othello was a general, Cassio was his lieutenant, everyone was happy in their positions. Everything was essentially great. 

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