Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Othello book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Shakespeare's play Othello, it is revealed that human insecurity will lead to destruction and despair, shown through the characters of Iago and Othello, who both fall prey to their overwhelming insecurities: how would you prove this point?

Expert Answers info

Dayna Balistreri eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write14 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Interesting question. While Othello is virtuous and driven by duty and Iago is wicked and driven by rage, both, in a sense, act irrationally when threatened in an area in which they feel vulnerable. For Iago, he seems to resort to evil when his power is threatened, and for Othello, it is when his manhood and marriage are threatened. It might be worthwhile to brainstorm a little more on each character and their insecurities:
Iago: In act 1, scene 2, Othello chooses not to promote Iago to the rank of lieutenant, which seems to be the main reason behind his hate for Othello. Likewise, when Othello demotes Cassio, Iago ropes him into his plan to bring down Othello. It can be assumed, then, that Iago is insecure about his lack of power in the military. He may also be racially biased against Othello. Throughout the play, Iago describes Othello with racially charged language and draws attention to the fact that Othello is a foreigner. (Look at how frequently Othello is referred to as "The Moor" rather than by his name.) Iago's insecurity about his power may be exacerbated by his belief that Othello is racially inferior to him.
Othello: Othello is a military man who wins the love of his wife by telling her stories of his war adventures. As a military man, he also believes in strict codes of duty, which include loyalty in marriage. For Othello, to have his masculinity threatened and sacred marriage promise broken by his wife's (imagined) infidelity is disastrous. Look at act 4, scene 1, to see Othello's reasoning for why he must kill Desdemona and his emphasis on duty and rigid, rule-abiding codes of law.
Ultimately, the play ends tragically for both men; they become too overwhelmed in their plans to destroy others in order to masque their own feelings of inferiority that they are unable to see their own irrationality.
Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial