Iago's Isolation from Humanity

Iago’s isolation from humanity is ideological and emotional hermitry rather than physical solitariness: he detaches himself from social standards and practices, but continues to weave his diabolical influence as a player in the social scene, creating chaos and tragedy.

His moral isolation is seen early in the play. Iago repudiates Aristotelian virtue and Christian doctrines, adopting a utilitarian standard instead. He tells Roderigo, “Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,/ But seeming so for my peculiar end.” Love and duty, the touchstones of morality, are here reduced to mere facades for a self-serving utilitarian end. Cynicism may be the cause for this – an astute insight into human nature which reveals the inherent hypocrisies within these moral doctrines. “Many a duteous knee-crooking knave…wears out his time…for naught but provender, and when he’s old cashiered.” Iago recognizes that love and duty are apparently insufficient motives for a more compassionate treatment of a master’s followers; individuals cannot look to morality for felicity, they have to “keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,” safeguard their own welfare, and act based on the principle of utility. If Iago’s success lies in his ability to...

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