Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Othello, why does Iago want to destroy Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio—despite the fact that he already got Cassio fired?

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Nate Currier eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is, without hyperbole, one of the most written upon character-based questions in Western literature. There have already been a couple good answers on here about Iago’s anger that he was passed up for promotion.

His line early in the play: “I hate the moor,” also suggests a possible undercurrent of racist motivation. (A quick side note: Othello is meant as a dark Turkish character, but in Shakespeare’s time might not necessarily have been represented as “black” the way the part is today. Though it also very likely could have been played in blackface. Either way, the racist undertones persist.) Iago also states that he suspects Othello might have slept with his wife Emilia, though how deeply he believes this suspicion is open to debate.

Iago’s true motivation is a difficult question to answer. One of the fascinating things about his character is that he gives so many different reasons to hate Othello (listed above), yet scholars still feel sure there must be some deeper,...

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Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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kristinng | Student

Also, Iago believes that Othello has "twixt' my sheets. He's done my office" (Act 1 scene iii). He accuses Othello of having an affair with his wife Emilia and feel emasculated by this. "I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leaped into my seat". Out of shame, he has decided that "nothing can or shall content my soul Till I am even with him, wife for wife" (Act 2 scene i)

That may be a reason why he continues with his evil plot even after Cassio has been dismissed.

mkcapen1 | Student

In "Othello" Iago is very jealous of Othello.  He wants to be in a better position but he is out ranked by a Moor.  He is angry that a Moor has power over him.  Throughout the play he makes mention of Othello's color and is negative about it.

Then, Iago thinks that there is no way that a woman as lovely as Desdemona is going to love someone like Othello.  Instead, she is captivated with him and loves him with all of her heart and soul.  He again is jealous so he begins to set his plot to destroy Othello into motion.

Casio has also got the position that he had wanted and he knows a good way to cause havoc for all three.