Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What reason does Iago give for his hatred of Othello?

Iago gives several reasons for his hatred of Othello (usually to his confidant Roderigo). He says that he hates Othello because Othello passed him over for a promotion to lieutenant, choosing Michael Cassio (who he claims is much less qualified) instead of him. He also claims that he suspects that his own wife, Emilia, has cheated on him with Othello, making him a cuckold. However, it is unclear whether either of these are the real underlying reason for Iago's hatred—this is never completely clarified by Shakespeare.

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The question of why Iago hates Othello so much is one that has occupied scholars for centuries, for although Iago certainly does offer his own reasons in the play, they do not seem to tell the whole story. From his own mouth, however, Iago's reasons are, he tells Roderigo, "hearted," just as Roderigo's "cause" is—Roderigo being driven by his desire for Desdemona. In the opening scene of the play, we discover that Iago has professed his hatred for Othello several times to Roderigo, his supposed confidant; it is questionable, however, as to how far we can believe Iago tells Roderigo the whole truth, as he later seems to have little regard for Roderigo's life.

Iago tells Roderigo that his chief issue with Othello, at this point in time, is that Othello has rejected the suit of "three great ones of the city" who had urged him to make Iago his lieutenant, instead choosing "a great arithmetician," Michael Cassio, who "never set a squadron in the field." Iago believes that he himself is far worthier an officer than Cassio and is furious that he has been passed over for promotion in favor of this lesser soldier. This seems a sound enough reason, and indeed Iago uses Cassio in his scheme to bring down Othello, as if to punish them both. Iago also mentions that he believes Othello "hath leap'd into my seat," or that "twixt my sheets / He hath done my office"—that is, that Othello has slept with Iago's wife, Emilia. However, there seems no justification for this suspicion, and even Iago himself says he doesn't know whether it is true. The idea is simply posited by Iago as if to further justify his actions.

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Iago says in Act I, Scene 1 that he hates Othello because Othello has passed him over as a lieutenant. Instead, Othello has chosen Michael Cassio, who, Iago says, has no knowledge of how to be a soldier. Iago describes Cassio as someone "That never set a squadron in the field, Nor...

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