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Shakespeare’s Othello – Abnormal Psychology and Iago

Abnormal Psychology and Iago in Othello

When the Bard of Avon created the evil Iago in the tragedy Othello, he entered into the area of irrational behavior and abnormal psychology. This essay will examine this branch of science as it relates to the play.

David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies describes the irrationality and self-destructiveness of the ancient’s behavior:

Emilia understands that jealousy is not a rational affliction but a self-induced disease of the mind. Jealous persons, she tells Desdemona, “are not ever jealous for the cause, / But jealous for they’re jealous. It is a monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” (3.4.161 – 163). Iago’s own testimonial bears this out, for his jealousy is at once wholly irrational and agonizingly self-destructive. “I do suspect the lusty Moor / Hath leaped into my seat, the thought thereof / Doth , like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my innards” (2.1.296 – 298). (223)

Blanche Coles in Shakespeare’s Four Giants affirms the Bard’s commitment to abnormal psychology, and his employment of same in this play:

That Shakespeare was keenly interested in the study of the abnormal mind is commonly accepted among students. [. . .] The suggestion that Iago may have been intentionally drawn as a psychopathic personality is not new. [. . .] Even a casual scrutiny of a book on case histories of psychopathic patients will find Iago peeping out from many of its pages. Still more, Iago’s name will be found appearing occasionally in bold print in books on abnormal psychology.(89-90)

Evidence of his psychopathic personality is seen early in the play. He manipulates the wealthy Roderigo into awakening the senator Brabantio (“Ro…

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…hall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love,

Till that a capable and wide revenge

Swallow them up. (3.3)

Iago is so in control of the general’s contorted mind that he specifies how the Moor should kill Desdemona: “Strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.” And the general dutifully responds, “Excellent good!” The enthusiastic answer causes one to suspect that the ancient’s psychopathology has taken possession of the Moor.


Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.

Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. No line nos.

Emilia’s Intelligence in Shakespeare’s Othello

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, Emilia expresses her underrated intelligence to prove others’ beliefs against her. Unlike the other women in the book, Emilia understands men and their thinking; therefore she shows no shame for standing up for what she believes in. Emilia unexpectedly ruins her husband’s plan, which suddenly alters the outcome the story.

Emilia without a doubt out smarts everyone, including her own brilliant husband, Iago, but little does he know that his loyal wife surprisingly ruins his plan. By gaining his trust, Emilia soon realizes Iago’s conniving plan and uses that against him in the end. Considering Iago has no idea what Emilia knows about his plan, he ignores her underrated intelligence. To gain Iago’s trust, Emilia obeys every order that he asks her to do. For example, as a part of Iago’s plan, he needs to get a hold of Desdemona’s beloved handkerchief, which soon he uses against her. Emilia finds the sought-after handkerchief, but instead of returning it back to her mistress, she gives it to her devious husband. When Emilia finds the handkerchief she states, “I am glad I have found this napkin, this was her first remembrance from the Moor. My wayward husband hath a hundred times.”(Shakespeare III : iii, 335-336 ). Clearly Emilia wants to please her husband, so she obeys all of his orders just to avoid any trouble with him. Emilia proves her underrated intelligence by telling everyone about Iago’s plan to ruin Othello’s and Desdemona’s marriage. Iago is oblivious to the fact that Emilia knows everything and is in total shock once she tells everyone. Revealing Iago’s plan not only makes her the hero of the story, but it also allows her to prove her underrated intelligence. As a result of her action, …

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…en. Iago uses Emilia to get a hold of Desdemona’s handkerchief. Without a doubt, people underestimate Emilia’s intelligence, and she proves everyone wrong about the stereotype about women and their knowledge.

To conclude, Emilia proves not only everyone’s beliefs against her wrong, but she also proves everything that she is capable of. Emilia voices her unsuspected intelligence to prove other’s beliefs concerning her and each other. She only wants people to see her true self and she wants to make things right even if it gets herself killed. Through all of her faults and flaws, Emilia’s intelligence makes a big impact on everyone in the story.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom’s Notes. Broomall, Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998. Print.

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