How would you set up this essay on Othello? Research and explore the characteristics of a Psychopath, Sociopath, and Narcissist. Discover how they operate and appear as opposed to who they really...

How would you set up this essay on Othello

Research and explore the characteristics of a Psychopath, Sociopath, and Narcissist. Discover how they operate and appear as opposed to who they really are beneath the false face. Write an extensive essay comparing contrasting Claudius from Hamlet and either Iago from Othello or Macbeth/Lady Macbeth from Macbeth. Which, if any, of these characters fit one of the above three disorders? How? Which is the most sinister and dangerous? Show extensive textual evidence (and from external sources) to support your opinion.


This is an extra credit paper and I'm in some serious need of help. I was able to get B's on the other papers and the test we had but the last paper I recieved an F. I'd end up with a low B/Or even a C and I'd like to get this extra credit paper in so I could redeem some points. 

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a difficult question as there is a subjective element in the interpretation of the characters.

Claudius and Macbeth would be obvious choices for a comparison due to their similar statuses but Iago in Othello is a far better match for Claudius in Hamlet with his scheming and manipulative ways.

An essay should reveal the characteristics of psychopath, narcissist or sociopath, whichever category these two characters fit. The classic psychopath is self-serving, a pathological liar, cunning and manipulative and without remorse or guilt.  Enter Iago... A sociopath is very similar but with more external influences which motivate his actions. Is there a possibility that, had Othello promoted Iago, he would not have sought revenge at all or would it have surfaced later?

A narcissist has similar characteristics but is usually less evil and more self-centred, is full of his own importance, unable to see another's viewpoint or identify with anyone else's needs, has ideas of grandeur and is extremely envious. Iago definitely fits some of these traits.

Iago plays all sides against each other, the one being none-the-wiser than the other.

He manipulates others through a keen understanding he seems to have of what motivates them.

Iago is quite proud of his abilities to manage others without implicating himself - a true sociopath, using opportunities to his best advantage.

 ‘When devils will the blackest sins put on, They do suggest at first with heavenly shows, As I do now.’

His admittance does not go further though and he only ever gives snippets of information that reveal his true colors  and it is almost reverse psychology as others do not read anything into his rrevelations. Any 'normal' person with  narcissistic tendencies would have been content with the disruption they caused and would leave the other parties to resolve the problems created. Iago is not capable of doing that. He must keep going until destruction - of everyone - is assured.

Claudius justifies his rise to the throne and marriage with a

confident eloquence ... But as the play progresses, Claudius's villainy becomes more apparent, revealing that he is little more than an evil hypocrite.

There is no sincerity in his words and, although he does not appear to be as blatantly evil as Iago from Othello, he is aware of his shallow nature, feeling sorrow but not sufficiently to give up the crown or queen:  

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: / Words without thoughts never to heaven go (3.3.97-98)

Hamlet wants to take revenge on Claudius but in order to punish  unjust deeds  and "what is rotten in the state of Denmark" - not because he feels aggrieved.  

Unlike Iago, Claudius does have moments of regret "O heavy burden!" (3.1.49-53) However, similarly to Iago, nothing can come before his ambition and the fulfillment of his desires - true narcissistic tendencies.  Claudius would trade his soul to achieve his ends, much like Iago, who Othello realizes (too late) is the devil incarnate.