Does Iago listen to the voice of reason, or does he succumb to his emotions?

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This is a very good question and, like all good questions, admits of no easy answer. On the one hand, one could reasonably argue that Iago, to an unhealthy extent, is in thrall to his emotions. Eaten up with pride and resentment over his relatively lowly position in life, he...

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This is a very good question and, like all good questions, admits of no easy answer. On the one hand, one could reasonably argue that Iago, to an unhealthy extent, is in thrall to his emotions. Eaten up with pride and resentment over his relatively lowly position in life, he deliberately sets out to destroy Othello—the man to whom he's supposed to be loyal—as well as anyone else who gets in his way.

On the other hand, however, as the great Scottish philosopher David Hume once said, "Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions." What he meant by this was that morality—or in Iago's case, immorality—derives from the passions, and that reason tells us how to achieve the moral ends which the emotions have already set for us.

This is especially true in the case of Iago. Although he may have been motivated to carry out his wicked actions by his deep wellspring of dark, twisted emotions, he needs to use reason to put his heinous plans into effect. Throughout the play, Iago's always thinking about how best to implement his sordid schemes, coldly calculating his next move down to the last detail. Though full of burning hatred and resentment, Iago knows that revenge is a dish best served cold. And for that, he needs the voice of reason to tell him the most effective way of achieving his ends.

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