Unique Villain: Iago is a unique villain of Shakespeare. He has two faces – the apparent one and the real one .There’s nothing like him in the whole English literature. He is even a greater Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles in Dr. Faustus uses his satanic powers demonstratively and openly, Iago is a Mephistopheles who ambushes his victims and drags their lives to the point of no return.So, he more villainous, poisonous and dangerous than him. His Mephistophelean traits are also explicated by the statement of Othello at the end, he says in great frustration that he cannot kill him because he is a devil. He is an incarnation of devil and personification of evil. He is a double-faced man and sometimes shows his real face to Roderigo, his confidant. He is an atheist of human nature, the stealthy corruptor of human piety, a fearless disturber of domestic peace and an unbeliever in and a denier of all spiritual things. It is sometimes not easy to find out Iago’s motives.
Iago’s Motives: According to Coleridge’s well-known views, the malignity of Iago is motiveless, but A.C. Bradley has quite the opposite view-point and doesn’t agree with Coleridge and maintains that not only Shakespeare has assigned several motives to Iago, but the difficulty arises that the motives assigned are too many. A man, for some very simple reason, doesn’t laboriously and remuneratively makes plans to make even with some one. That is what Iago does. The motives appear and disappear, but we can’t say that his malignity is motiveless. His resentment at Cassio’s appointment is clearly expressed in the first conversation with Roderigo; however, it is never expressed again throughout the play. Hatred of Othello is expressed in the first Act alone. Iago’s love of Desdemona is alluded to in the second soliloquy; however, there is not the least or slightest verbal or oral trace of his love in the play. Appearance and disappearance of Iago’s motive doesn’t allow for their vacuum of existence. He is also motivated by the general public feeling that Othello has seduced his wife, though he is not quite sure, yet he wants justice, wife for wife.
Iago’s Character: The key to Iago’s motive lies in the composition of his character. One of the noticeable traits of his character are his sense of superiority and contempt of others. The most delightful thing to such a man would be something that gave an extreme satisfaction to his sense of power and superiority and if it involved the excitement of danger and triumphant exertion of his abilities, his delight would be consummated. Othello’s eminence, Othello’s goodness and his own dependence on Othello, must have been a perpetual annoyance to him. At any time, he would have enjoyed befooling and tormenting Othello. Disappointment at the loss of the lieutenancy, supplied the touch of lively resentment that was required to overcome these obstacles; and the prospect to satisfying the sense of power by mastering Othello through an intrigue now became irresistible. Iago could not clearly understand what was moving him desire; though he tried to give himself reasons for his actions.
Sense of Superiority: There’s little doubt that one of Iago’s strongest needs is to heighten his sense of power and superiority and this is the unconscious motive of many acts of cruelty not only in this play, but in life. He will find the fullest unconscious satisfaction that he is the master of the General who has undervalued him and replaced him that these worthy and successful people are stupid and puppets of his designs. It must have been an ecstasy of bliss for him to think like that. He had been Othello’s friend and comforter all the time. His horrible nature is intelligible and there is no psychology in Iago.
Other Motives: In addition to Iago’s strong desire to satisfy his sense of power, there are also other forces which drive him on. One of them is the pleasure in a perilous and intensely exciting action. We always see him in physical action, be it that he is informing Brabantio about Desdemona’s elopement or attacking Cassio.
Iago’s Artistry: In addition to being a man of action, Iago is also a man of artistry who undertakes certain projects and performs them meticulously. He is, says Hazlitt, an amateur of tragedy in real life. Instead of employing his invention on imaginary characters, he chose his friends and relations around. His manipulation of characters, especially Othello and Roderigo, is excellent and artistic, which a true artist can perform.
Iago’s Fate: We feel at a stage that the action, Iago initiates remains no longer in his power; but becomes his master. It looks as though, he fated to do what he did. It is obvious that once embarked on the course, Iago had no ‘go back’ even if his passion did abate. He is caught in his own web because the reversal of his expectations happens.