Iago has no conscience. He is an angry man and is happy to take down everyone around him to get what he wants: revenge. It is in Act 1, Scene 3, that he devises his evil plan. Here we can see inside Iago’s mind. It is easy to see that his primary motivation is jealousy: jealousy that Othello may have slept with his wife, and jealousy that Othello chose Cassio over him. As he plots his revenge, it is clear Iago respects and cares for no one.
(Act 1, Scene 3, 378-381)I hate the Moor,
And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets
H’as done my office. I know not if’t be true,
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do, as if for surety.
Iago states here he suspects Othello may have slept with his wife. He is not sure of this, but declares that surety is not necessary. I believe Iago is not so much concerned with his wife being unfaithful, but that he can’t stand the thought that it may have been with Othello.
(Act 1, Scene 3, 381-382)He holds me well;
The better shall my purpose work on him.
This shows how conniving Iago is. He will use the fact that Othello trusts him to get his revenge.
(Act 1, Scene 3, 383-385)
Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now;
To get his place, and to plume up my will
In double knavery. How? How? Let’s see.
Here “double knavery” means to pull off one stunt and obtain two desired outcomes – to get Cassio’s position (which he felt he deserved) and to make himself appear respectful for his ego’s sake.
Another benefit of getting Cassio’s position is he can be closer to Othello. When he accomplishes this, he will be able to obtain even more trust from Othello and begin manipulating him to believe that Cassio and Desdemona are having an adulteress relationship:
(Act 1, Scene 3, 386-389)
After some time, to abuse Othello’s ears
That he is too familiar with his wife.
He hath a person and a smooth dispose
To be suspected – framed to make women false.
Iago knows that Othello is a man of integrity and therefore, believes others to be so until proven differently. Iago has no respect for integrity and consequently, has no respect for Othello. This is obvious in his reference to Othello as an “ass” which can “tenderly be led by th’ nose.”
(Act 1, Scene 3, 390-393)
The Moor is of a free and open nature
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;
And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose
As asses are.
One of the frightening things about Iago is that he takes what most of us see as good and uses those traits against them. There are several examples in this soliloquy. One example is when he refers to Cassio being a “proper” man. Proper means handsome in this context. Being handsome is positive but Iago will use Cassio’s handsomeness to evoke jealousy in Othello. Women are attracted to Cassio. Already amazed Desdemona “chose him,” a large, black scarred man, not conventionally handsome at all, it will be easy to convince Othello that Desdemona might be attracted to Cassio.
Another example is that Iago will use Othello’s trustfulness and integrity. Iago knows Othello already trusts him. Iago will “play” an honest man who is loyal and loves his general. If this is the case, why would Othello believe for a minute that Iago is not telling him the truth?
With this, revenge comes easy for Iago.