Shakespeares Globe by Kieran Lynam
Shakespeare’s Globe – A reconstruction of the theatre where Shakespeare’s playing company was based | Kieran Lynam, Flickr

Iago is William Shakespeare‘s devilishly clever ‘sour grapes’ character in the tragic play Othello.

Passed over for a promotion in the Venetian army, Iago becomes insanely jealous of anyone who has anything and plots his chilling revenge through lies, deceit and treachery.

Through his dark schemes, Iago exemplifies intelligent evil at its worst.

After tricking Othello into murdering his wife, Desdemona, Iago is eventually discovered and, in the compelling 1981 BBC TV production of the play, goes to his grisly fate cackling with maniacal glee. Iago is content with the knowledge that his hideous revenge has been secured, despite his captor Lodovico’s decree, The time, the place, the torture,—O, enforce it!

To me, it seems Iago represents the type of person so consumed by jealousy and rage that they are blinded to their better self, their highest aspect. In this current  2021 update from the old Think Free post of 2011, I’ve carried over two comments.

The Bard adds:

It is interesting that, while we learn about Iago’s “fate,” we do not actually see him punished (on stage, that is) which Shakespeare could have easily arranged (given the number of fights and deaths in the play). So, in one sense, evil incarnate goes unpunished before our eyes. The question, of course, remains–why?? » See in context

Ari Moore adds:

I disagree that Iago was “evil” – there are numerous allusions in the play to his being impotent, ferociously intimidated by what he believed was Othello’s superior sexual prowess. I don’t know if that makes him “evil” so much as misguided and unable to deal with life in a healthy way. » See in context

Concerning the latter, I think Ari Moore makes a good point. We should always remember to differentiate evil from the individuals held sway by it. Not only physiological but also psychological factors probably play into a person allowing or choosing evil to take hold of their psyche. I once had a dishonorable professor who came to Canada from a communist country. Coming from a socially and economically backward place, they clearly felt inferior to Canadians and wanted all the capitalist goodies – and other perks – the West had to offer. And I think this, perhaps in combination with additional childhood factors like a punitive father, contributed to that person making harmful choices and also to their textbook Adlerian inferiority/superiority complex.

Iago (Bob Hoskins) and Othello (Anthony Hopkins) in the 1981 BBC production of Othello – Google Images | shakespeareances.com

The Adlerian idea of feeling inferior yet compensating with an equally distorted feeling of superiority arguably contributes to much of the evil we see in our world today.

You wanna take me on?  I’ll show you! The jealous tyrant with an inferiority /superiority complex yells out. Never do we hear them say, “How can we make this situation better where we both win?

Put simply, they are just too blinded by evil to be of any lasting good to themselves or society.