Complexity Of Shakespearean Evil In Drama Othello

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Despite the countless meanings of wickedness within contemporary society, definitions of evil have prevailed throughout historic literature, and continue to influence the modern perception of evil. Within William Shakespear’s Othello, Shakespearean evil is unequivocally depicted through the vengeance, manipulation, deceitful nature, and lack of empathy implemented by Iago.

To begin, the motivation for vengeance is exemplified through Iago’s jealousy and hostility regarding Cassio’s appointed lieutenancy, as well as Othello’s alleged copulatory relationship with Emilia. Next, ignoble manipulation is evident through Iago’s use of chicanery to convince Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithful temperament, and to tempt Cassio to become inebriated and lose his lieutenant rank.

Moreover, deception of intention is demonstrated through Iago’s false benevolence towards Othello and Roderigo, as well as his internal realization of hypocrisy. Lastly, the absence of remorse is exemplified through the death of Emilia, as well as Iago’s inability to express regret. Through the scrutinization of wicked components within Shakespeare’s Othello, it is evident that vengeance, manipulation, deceitfulness, and lack of empathy fabricate the meaning of evil, and motivate individuals to commit immoral acts of atrocity.

To begin, it is evident that the motivation for vengeance provokes and contributes to the defining qualities of evil, and motivates the destructive immorality of individuals. Within William Shakespear’s Othello, Iago’s evil disposition is initially provoked by his envy and malice resulting from Cassio’s appointed lieutenancy. As Iago describes his superior qualifications for the lieutenant role, he insinuates his motivation for vengeance against Cassio when he states, “This counter-caster / He (in good time) must his lieutenant be / And I, bless the mark, his Moorship’s ancient” (1.1.33-35). It is evident that Iago’s jealousy of Cassio’s honourable position epitomizes his incentive to punish both Othello and Cassio throughout the play, and permits him to act on his evil disposition with reduced guilt.

Next, Iago’s evil temperament is further illustrated through his anger towards Othello for allegedly having sex with his wife. Iago’s hostile motivation for vengeance is exemplified as he states, “I hate the Moor, / And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets / ‘Has done my office. I know not if ‘t be true, / But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, / Will do as if for surety” (1.3.329-433). Here, the influence of motivation of vengeance is explicit, as Iago impulsively conveys his desire to destroy Othello’s life without considering the incertitude of the rumour or confirming it with Emilia first. Altogether, it is evident that Iago’s recklessness regarding motivations for cruelty substantially engender his evil nature. Whether wicked incentives are fueled by jealousy or false rumours, the motivation for vengeance proves to be a significant contribution to the understanding of evil within literature, as it justifies individuals to commit immoral acts of atrocity.

The destructive manipulation of individuals comprise a significant component of the definition of evil. Within Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago utilizes potent words and misleading actions to manipulate characters and consequently satisfy his evil plans. To begin, the vile and evil essence of manipulation is supported by Iago’s use of chicanery to inform Othello of Desdemona’s alleged unfaithfulness. Likewise, Iago’s use of synchronicity and coincidence of situation to manipulate Othello is evident when he states, “She did deceive her father marrying you, / And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks, / she loved them most” (3.3.204). It is clear that Iago’s manipulative techniques support the existence of wickedness, as Iago quickly notes that this information “dashed [Othello’s] spirits” (3.3.119). Through Iago’s use of diabolical manipulation, it is evident that Othello begins to doubt Desdemona, as he contemplates her rebellious past and her alleged disloyalty in the future.

Next, manipulation pertaining to the definition of evil is depicted through Iago’s ability to inebriate Cassio. When Cassio opposes Iago’s initial request to drink alcohol on duty, Iago uses manipulation when he states, “Come, lieutenant, / I have a stoup of wine, and here without are a / brace of Cyprus gallants that would fain have a / measure to the health of black Othello” (2.3.31-33). Here, Iago successfully persuades Cassio to drink alcohol, as he peer pressures the lieutenant to drink a toast to Othello with a group of Cypriot men. This act of persuasion and chicanery exemplifies the powerful nature of evil manipulation, as it encourages Cassio to commit unethical acts and prompts the dismissal of his role as a lieutenant.

Lastly, Iago reinforces the evil essence of trickery through his manipulation of appearance and circumstance. This exploitation of situation is exemplified when Iago encourages Othello to watch Cassio fervently talk about Bianca and the handkerchief, with the false assumption that Cassio is speaking about Desdemona. This use of manipulation substantially influences the mental and physical wellbeing of Othello, as he jealously states, “Lie with her? lie on her? We say “lie on her” / when they belie her. Lie with her – (Zounds,) that’s / fulsome. Handkerchief—confessions—handkerchief” (4.1.43-45), before falling into a trance. Altogether, it is evident that Iago’s use of ignoble manipulation through words and situations substantially progress the understanding of evil within literature, as he forces individuals to segregate from their moral judgements, antagonize their peers, and commit unethical acts of cruelty.

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The deception of intention significantly contributes to the denotation and understanding of evil. Within William Shakespear’s Othello, the concealment of Iago’s true motivations supports his evil tendencies, as it enables him to gain the trust of important figures and pursue his malicious schemes without being suspected. To begin, the evil essence of deception is stimulated by Iago’s disingenuous relationship with Othello.

Throughout the play, Iago deceives Othello by appearing as his benevolent and helpful friend while stealthily planning to provoke his destruction. This deception is exemplified as Iago states, “I do hate [Othello] as I do hell-pains— / Yet for necessity if present life / I must show out a flag and sign of love” (1.1.156-58). Although Iago inconspicuously reveals his true detrimental intentions, he continues to perceivably respect and love Othello. This perceptible companionship proves to be a significant factor within Iago’s evil temperament, as Othello’s trust of Iago allows him to be susceptible to destructive manipulation. Additional proof of evil deception is exemplified as Othello describes that Iago is “full of love and honesty” (3.3.135), and later conveys that “[he] is bound to [Iago] forever” (3.3.142).

These descriptions of loyalty demonstrate the wicked impact of false intentions on individuals, as Othello proves to be oblivious of Iago’s true intentions throughout the play. Next, the evil constitution of deception is supported through Iago’s helpful and accommodating behaviour towards Roderigo. Throughout the first scene of the play, Iago demonstrates deception by appearing to encourage Roderigo to make money for his own personal advancement.

However, within his soliloquy, Iago reveals his true intention to steal Roderigo’s money when he states, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse, / For I mine own gained knowledge should profane / If I would time expend with such a snipe / But for my sport and profit” (1.3.320-323). Altogether, it is evident that Iago’s use of frivolous charm and distorted affection significantly contribute to the factors that define evil, as he consistently challenges the trust and amity of individuals for personal gain and persuades individuals to commit unprincipled acts of cruelty.

The absence of remorse from callous individuals contributes to the defining qualities of evil, and permits villainous figures to morally continue their destructive tendencies without hesitation. Within William Shakespear’s Othello, Iago’s evil disposition is supported by his lack of compunction for initiating irreversible distress, misfortune, and death. To begin, Iago’s evil lack of remorse is particularly potent when he murders Emilia after she discovers the true evil nature of her husband. This evil temperament is evident after Emilia’s revealment of her role with the stolen handkerchief, as Iago calls his wife a “Villainous whore” (5.2.73), and stabs her with his own sword.

The determination and lack of mercy possessed by Iago during the murder of Emilia demonstrates the presence of evil within the play and insituates the destructive nature of calousness. Next, Iago’s lack of empathy is most powerfully depicted in the last scene of the play, when Iago’s responsibility for causing significant death and suffering is revealed. Here, Iago’s lack of remorse is exemplified as he states, “Demand me nothing, what you know, you know. / From this time forth I never will speak a word” (5.2.16-17). Through Iago’s refusal to explain his motivations or acknowledge his role in the tragic suffering that he initiated within the play, Iago’s evil disposition is evident, as he tortures Othello one final time through the concealment of his true motivations. As a whole, is it evident that Iago’s lack of remorse for pain and suffering significantly contributes to the factors that define evil, as it fuels his heinous temperament and allows him to commit harrowing acts of cruelty without moral hesitation.

The definitive components of vengeance, manipulation, deceit, and apathy prove to be extremely relevant to the concept of evil within Shakespearean literature, as these deeds confuse individuals, eradicate their moral judgement, and fuel their decisions to commit dishonorable acts of atrocity. Within William Shakespear’s Othello, evil is depicted through the motivation for vengeance, as Iago develops hostility as a result of Cassio’s appointed lieutenancy and Othello’s alleged copulatory relationship with Emilia. Next, ignoble manipulation is evident through Iago’s use of dishonesty and trickery to convince Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithful temperament, and to tempt Cassio to become inebriated and lose his lieutenant rank. Moreover, deception of intention is demonstrated through Iago’s false benevolence towards Othello and Roderigo.

Lastly, the presence of apathy is exemplified through the death of Emilia, as well as Iago’s inability to express regret. Altogether, it is evident that vengeance, manipulation, deceitfulness, and lack of empathy fabricate the meaning of evil, and allude to the prevailment of these components in modern cultures, religions, societies, and works of literature. Although there exists countless disputable interpretations of evil, Shakespeare’s Othello clearly demonstrates the unusual temperaments of humans, allowing readers or spectators to comprehend the multi-dimensional behaviours of individuals in unique circumstances and the powerful impact that evil engenders within a story.

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Complexity Of Shakespearean Evil In Drama Othello. (2021, April 19). WritingBros. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/complexity-of-shakespearean-evil-in-drama-othello/
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Complexity Of Shakespearean Evil In Drama Othello. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/complexity-of-shakespearean-evil-in-drama-othello/> [Accessed 14 May 2021].
Complexity Of Shakespearean Evil In Drama Othello [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Apr 19 [cited 2021 May 14]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/complexity-of-shakespearean-evil-in-drama-othello/
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