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The word “hate” appears a number of times in William Shakespeare’s play Othello, and each one of its appearances is significant. The play has barely begun, for instance, when Roderigo says to Iago that “Thou told'st me thou didst hold him [that is, Othello] in thy hate.” This statement, especially so early in the play, is important because it introduces a key theme of the work (Iago’s hatred of Othello) as well as a key characteristic of Iago’s personality (hatred). Iago quickly reassures Roderigo that he does indeed hate Othello.
The next appearance of the word “hate” occurs when Iago proclaims, concerning Othello, that “I do hate him as I do hell-pains.” This phrasing suggests the sheer depths of Iago’s hatred and also is one of many points in the play in which his hatred begins to seem almost Satanic.
The third appearance of “hate” occurs when Iago once again tells Roderigo – in extremely unambiguous language followed by clever word-play – “I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted.” The very same sentiment is repeated not long afterwards, this time much more simply: “I hate the Moor.” This line, by the way, is delivered with unforgettable and icy slowness by Kenneth Branagh in the Oliver Parker film of Othello. (See YouTube link below.)
Ironically, the next use of the word “hate” is spoken by Othello, who has now fallen under Iago’s sick influence:
Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throne
To tyrannous hate!
Othello now uses a word almost exclusively used, until now, by the very man who hates Othello.
Even more ironic is the next use of “hate,” again spoken by Othello but this time to defend the good character Iago, the very person who hates Othello so profoundly:
An honest man he is, and hates the slime
That sticks on filthy deeds.
Finally, the very last use of the word “hate” is also by Othello, but now he is denying that his behavior has been prompted by hatred:
For nought I did in hate, but all in honour.
In short, the word “hate” is first sounded again and again by Iago, and then again and again by the very man whom he hates so much but whom he brings so completely under his control. By perverting Othello's mind, Iago has also perverted his language and his emotions. Paradoxically, by the end of the play, Othello has come to resemble the very man who hates him so intensely. Equally ironic is the fact that Othello turns his hatred on the very two people -- Cassio and Desdemona -- who least deserve it. Iago twice says "I hate the Moor," but Othello, by the end of the play, comes almost to love Iago, as his defense of Iago's character shows.
This union of the hater and the hated, who in turn becomes a hater, is just one of the many ironies Shakespeare manages to achieve in this exceptionally ironic play.
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