What are Iago's motives in Othello?
Iago's motives in Othello are seeking revenge on Othello and Cassio and seeing evil for evil's sake. Iago desires revenge on Othello because Othello overlooked him for the lieutenant position, and he desires revenge on Cassio because Cassio was made lieutenant instead of him.
Iago's motives are to seek revenge on Othello and Cassio both. Iago has these motives because the Moor has overlooked him for the lieutenant position and on Cassio because he was awarded the title. Iago also...
(The entire section contains 119 words.)
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
Iago's primary motivation in Othello is revenge, driven by what he has perceived as a slight against him. Deeper than this superficial act, however, we see Iago driven by his own ego to re-gain a sense of lost face. In Act I we learn a few things that give us insight into what drives Iago and what his station in life is prior to his mechanism being set in motion. We see the obvious - he is angry with Othello, his superior, for passing him over for the lieutenancy promotion; he is jealous of Cassio for receiving the lieutenancy position he feels he rightly deserves. Beyond this it is clear that Iago considers himself smarter, more talented, and generally better than others in the story.
His bitterness toward Cassio stems from his belief that he is more deserving of the position. That he is a smarter, more experienced, more talented tactician. Where he has been in the service for some time now, Cassio is still very new and has received his post not through merit, but through a closeness with Othello.
When it comes to Othello, Iago recognizes that he holds superior authority, but to that end feels a sense of bitterness and insult in having to serve a foreigner. He sees service to Othello as a means to an end, but sees one slight too many in the promotion of Cassio. This concept of "otherness" is of particular importance to the development of the story. We must remember that Othello is a high-standing and powerful character, but he is still considered different and an outsider. There is a reason Shakespeare chose a Moor as his tragic hero and there is a reason why Othello is one of the few characters to have a visual description in the character list. This concept of race and otherness is part of what drives not only Iago, but also other characters within the story.
Ultimately, Iago's ego and pride drive him to action. He is not a particularly low-standing soldier in the military. "...and I his Moorship's ancient ..." Iago is the modern day equivalent to a squadron leader. Othello gives vision and direction as a general and tasks his lieutenant (Cassio) with delivering and committing that vision to action, but it is the squad leaders who actually take the men to charge.
There is, and likely always will be, debate regarding the true driver for Iago's reasoning and motivation for revenge, but it is easy clear that at least some large part of this stems from Iago's need for validation that he is, in fact, smarter and superior than all other characters. Iago is a character with no regard for others beyond his own interest with a vested need to validation that the way he feels about his talents are true. Having been passed over for the lieutenancy Iago feels the need to not only seek revenge, but also to validate his talents as a tactician worthy of military regard and recognition.