In the Elizabethan times, there was a common belief that all beings belonged to a structure called the ‘Great Chain of Beings’;. At the top of the chain was God, who was the absolute symbol of perfection, followed by angels which had reason, human beings, and then animals, that were full of passion. It was believed that the human being was a mixture of both the angel and the animal, thus there was conflict between these two halves of a human being. The angel was representative of all that was right and virtuous and in contrast, the animal was representative of all that was wrong and self-serving. When Iago made the comment that, ‘Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light,’; (I, i, 394-395) his calling upon the forces of darkness to achieve his goal illustrates the imbalance in the conflict that rages in his soul. Iago is an individual who’s perspective of the world is dominated by his animal nature. Due to his own lack of virtue, Iago does not believe that any virtue exists at all. In his actions, he seeks to bring all around him to the same level of existence. The motive for the evil he commits is none other than to commit evil. Thus beyond all of the reason and thought that he cloaks himself in, Iago is really a character that is truly dark at his core.
Iago is a character who believes that there is no such thing as virtue in any individual that he meets. His animalistic perspective of individuals lets him believe that everyone around him has the same self-serving attitude towards life as his own.
‘When the blood is made dull with the act of sport, there should be game to inflame it and to give satiety a fresh appetite,’;(II, i, 225-227). Iago’s animalistic nature believes that Desdemona will eventually cheat on Othello when she is satisfied with her body, for he believes that the only purpose of sex is to satisfy an individuals sexual craving. He does not believe in the virtue of love, so he can not understand that there was more to the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. Thus his lack of virtue limits his ability to see the intentions of the people who are around him. To him, the world around him is one that is governed by the basic rule of evolution, only the strong may survive. As far as he is concerned, there is no dignity in human beings; thus he sees them all as animals. Consequently, Iago’s inability to see the virtue that exists in individuals illustrates the dominance of the animalistic nature in his soul.
In the playwright, Iago attempts to bring down all of the people around him to the same level of existence as himself, the animal. ‘O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green eyed monster,’; (III, iii, 165-166) In that scene, Iago carefully baits the beast that exists within Othello to show itself. It is only until he is convinced that he has put Othello in to a jealous rage that he decides leave Othello in his thoughts. He is not satisfied until he has reduced those who are around him by bringing out their animal instincts. This is due to the fact that Iago is an individual who would rather be the king of hell than an angel in heaven. Yet, he is not blind to the fact of the ugliness that exists with in his soul, so he wraps himself in a cloak of logic and reason to prevent those around him from seeing this part of his character. He sees the nobility and self-control that Othello exhibits, the purity and innocence of Desdemona, and the loyalty and self-sacrifice of Cassio. If he compared himself to these individuals, he would be forced to see what was wrong with him. To avoid confronting this image of rot in his soul, Iago seeks to reduce Desdemona to a whore, Othello to an animal, and Cassio into a drunkard. He seeks to bring individuals down to his level of existence to prove to himself that they are no better. Thus the dominance of the animal nature in Iago is illustrated through his attempt to bring down those who appear better in their character.
The inability of Iago to justify the actions that he takes illustrates the dominance of the animal in his character. In the playwright, Iago is never quite capable of explaining any sort of motive behind the actions he takes to create chaos. ‘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 of that kind, Will do, as if for surety.’; (I, iii, 380-383) Iago is incapable of giving any sort of reason for creating evil. He attempts to justify his actions against Othello by saying that Othello has slept with his wife, but even he believes that it did not happen. Later on, to justify why he choose Cassio as the character to take the fall, Iago also claims that Cassio slept with his wife. His explanations for the motive behind the evil he creates are extremely weak and even he himself does not believe them. This is evidence of the animal that exists within him. Only humans and angels possess the ability to reason according to the ‘Great Chain of Beings’;. Angels are pure reason, but a human being has reason, but is also susceptible to the passion of animals. Thus Iago’s inability to give any sort of reason for his actions illustrates in his soul he is animal.
Consequently, Iago is an animal that hides beneath the appearance of an animal. Iago is a character that is incapable of seeing virtue in the actions of those around him and thus he fails to see any dignity in human beings. He seeks to bring down those who are better than himself to the same level of existence that he resides in to convince himself that there is nothing wrong his character. The inability to give reason for the actions shows that at the core of his character, he is an animal. Though he appears to be an individual that should be reviled, there is no doubt that within every individual, there resides a little bit of Iago in their character. However, most individuals are capable of keeping it under control.