In Shakespeare’s Othello, perhaps the most unwatchable/watchable play there is, Othello murders his wife Desdemona believing as he does that she has cheated on him with Casio. It’s an awful business; for one thing, she’s entirely innocent. How does it come about that noble Othello’s moral vision is so entirely clouded that he commits this heinous act?
Well, he needed some help in breaking that terrible taboo. The help comes from Iago who subtly poisons Othello’s mind. Two questions emerge: How does Iago do it and why? Let’s start with the second question first.
Why does Iago destroy Othello (and Desdemona too, let’s not forget)?
This question has puzzled scholars through the ages. Iago has been passed over for promotion: is that the motive? Iago is a racist and Othello is a dark Moor? Is that it? Perhaps Iago is unconsciously attracted to Desdemona? Alternatively, there is a rumour that Othello slept with Iago’s wife, Emelia (at least Iago claims there is such a rumour):