Othello - William Shakespeare Othello is unrelenting. Unlike most of his other plays, Shakespeare does not spin-off on side plots nor introduce moments of comic relief. This is about Iago’s decision to destroy a man.

I can imagine some actor attempting to play this role begging the director- “What’s my motivation?” Is it revenge for the thought that Othello might have slept with Emilia? Envy over Cassio’s promotion? Lust over Desdemona? Lust over Othello? All motivations are arguably present, but none seem convincing. Even Iago, when he articulates reasons, seems half-hearted about them. Occasionally, he feeds the audience in an aside before resuming his hunt for Othello’s destruction. But that’s all he’s doing. He’s tossing us some of the broken chips at the bottom of the bag. Iago, and his reasons, exist outside the play and he treats the audience just as dismissively as those in the play.

The play’s overriding psychological drama is about Othello’s gnawing jealous suspicion. However, it is Iago’s ruthless manipulation that makes the play brilliant. I know of no other villain that matches Iago in Shakespeare or elsewhere.

Not even Richard III.