Different people have different opinions of the motives of Iago, in the play “Othello,” by one William Shakespeare. Colerige famously said that Iago acted with a “motiveless malignity,” or a pure hate of Othello and everything that he did. Others have disagreed with the author of perhaps the most famous critical analysis of Othello. They have suggested that he acted out of pure sexual jealousy, out of a envy of Othello’s rank and class, or out of pure racism.
Perhaps the most arguable case against Colerige is the idea that Iago was a blatant racist. Right from the get-go Iago cries to Brabantio that Othello is “an old black ram”t upping” his “white ewe.” (1. 1. 89) We have not even learned the name of this black ram yet, and someone unfamiliar with the story would be purposely led to believe that Othello was somewhat of a predator, or that he could even be raping Desdemona. Basically the first half of Act 1 Scene 1 comprises of Iago and Roderigo, who we are introduced to immediately, speaking of Othello in a derogatory way. Iago alleges to Brabantio that Othello is “the devil” on line 92, and warns Brabantio that he has lost “half his soul” because of the two races involved in the marriage.
Roderigo, in all his wisdom, even chips in when he yells to Brabantio that he will have “his nephews neigh to him.” Iago refers to his as “thick lips” on line 67, and continuously calls him just “him” or “he”, or “the moor.” Straight away we understand Iago’s main motive in his manipulation and degradation of Othello.