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the more it shows his freedom and power. When he confesses to himself that “the Moor, howbeit that he endures him not, is of a constant, loving, noble nature;" it is not so much that he really feels these qualities in him, as that, granting him to have them, there is the greater triumph in hating him. For to dislike a man for his faults is but an ordinary thing; anybody can do that: but to dislike a man for his virtues is somewhat original ; involves something like a declaration of moral independence. So, also, in the soliloquy where he speaks of himself as loving Desdemona, after disclaiming any unlawful passion for her he adds, parenthetically and as if addressing his Maker, “though, peradventure, I stand accountant for as great a sin :" as much as to say, that whether guilty or not, he did not care, and dared the responsibility at all events; that he scorned, not feared the crime; or rather, disclaimed it, that he might have to boast of a greater. So that here, to adopt a distinction from Dr. Chalmers, he seems not so much an atheist as an antitheist in morality ; acknowledges his Maker but to brave him ; glories in putting his foot on the Law, looking Heaven in the face meanwhile with a sort of defiant smile !
That Iago prefers lying to telling the truth, is implied in what I have been saying ; such a preference, indeed, is inseparable from his inordinate intellectuality: for so far is a man from necessarily loving truth in proportion as he is intellectual, that, strange as it may seem, he may get so very intellectual as to prefer lies, as affording greater scope for activity and display of mind. For we could not, if we would, take credit to ourselves for thriving by the truth; since in that case our thrift
would seem the truth's work, not ours; and, coming as a gift, would rather humble than elate us. Indeed, the general order of Providence is so much on the side of virtue, that the truly virtuous attribute their success to causes out of themselves, and are therefore more apt to give thanks for it than to glory in it. Moreover, the results of right action are generally too remote from the action itself to flatter our pride of power; we cannot appropriate them; our agency is so interwoven with others, that we cannot engross to ourselves the merit of the consequences: the bread which we cast upon the waters is so long in returning, and undergoes so many changes in the passage, that when it comes we cannot identify it as ours; we therefore receive it as a favour, not reclaim it as a right. Thus does nature try to keep us from conceit of well-doing, by hiding from us the good we do; for if we could sow the seed and reap the harvest the same day, it is hardly questionable to whom we should attribute our blessings. Wherefore, when we hear a man saying, as we often may, Behold, how much good I am doing! we have a right to presume, that he is doing nothing but evil. Indeed, he who truly means to do good, and not merely to get the pay for doing it, never says any such thing; content to obey, he works and waits, and keeps still about it.
On the other hand, to succeed by lying, looks like outwrestling Providence and inverting the order of things : we can thus reckon ourselves an overmatch for truth, and credit all our thrift to our own power; we seem to owe none of it to nature, but rather to have wrung it out in spite of her; to have been her antagonist, and carried the day against her: which appears to be the
scope and style of lago's ambition: that he may not be obliged to share the praise of his success with truth and nature, he prefers to enter the lists against them. Indeed, his proper delight, his characteristic satisfaction, seems to consist in keeping up a sort of inversion between appearance and reality; for example, in causing himself to be thought true in proportion as he is false, and others false in proportion as they are true; which inversion probably involves the highest possible gratification of intellectual pride. For, to make virtue pass for virtue, and pitch for pitch, is no triumph at all : but to make virtue pass for pitch, and pitch for virtue, is a triumph indeed. Iago glories in seeming able thus to convict appearances of untruth; in compelling nature, as it were, to own her secret deceptions and acknowledge him too much for her. Hence his labouring so strenuously to appear as if serving Roderigo, while really using him. Hence his purpose not merely to deceive Othello, but to get his thanks for deceiving him. Hence his avowed intention respecting Desdemona:
“ So will I turn her virtue into pitch;
And out of her own goodness make the net,
Therefore it is that he takes such a malicious pleasure in turning her character and conduct wrongside out: therefore it is that he so much delights in unsettling and outreasoning the convictions of others concerning her. For the more an angel she is, the more he triumphs in making her seem a devil.
As Desdemona is composed and framed of female
delicacy and honour, there is of course a principle of religious awe in her love for the Moor; and even in her smiles of fondness there is an infusion of awful respect: she fears as well as loves him; nay, the more she loves, the more she fears him, and even flies to him, and clings to him as a protection from the very fear which his presence inspires. Gifted with the same insight of her as of the other characters, lago reminds the Moor in a sort of retrospective prophecy, that “when she seemed to shake, and fear his looks, she loved them most;" then, arguing from the apparent contrariety of love and fear, that she artfully seemed to fear in order to hide her love, he construes what is in itself proof of the deepest and purest affection into an exquisite piece of hyprocrisy to blind her father, lest he should suspect and defeat her intentions. If she could be so skilful in feigning fear to deceive her father, the inference is, that she would be equally skilful in feigning love to deceive her husband. Thus, out of the strongest possible evidences of her purity, he twists arguments of her grossness : because she could not have loved Othello for his person, he shows that she must have loved him for nothing else: because she could not have chosen the Moor but for reasons of perpetual validity, he argues that the ground of her choice must soon breed satiety and disgust: while the outward incongruity of the match really proves that her affection is based upon Othello's “honours and his valiant parts," he turns that incongruity into the basis of a contrary opinion.
But there is no end or bottom to Iago's wicked ingenuity; the resources of his cunning are literally unsearchable: sleepless, unrelenting, inexhaustible, with a
zeal that nothing can tire, and an alertness that nothing can surprise, he anticipates and parries every objection; the more obstinate the material, the more greedily does he seize it, the more adroitly work it, the more effectually make it tell ; and absolutely persecutes the Moor with a redundancy of proof. When, for example, Othello drops the remark, “and yet, how nature, erring from itself,”—meaning simply that no woman is altogether exempt from frailty ; Iago with indescribable sleight-of-hand immediately steals in upon him, under cover of this remark, a cluster of cunning plausibilities as but so many inferences from the other's suggestion. In this way he succeeds in imparting his own thoughts to the Moor by appearing to derive them from him; makes Othello, though he has no such stuff in his mind, seem responsible for the villain's own audacious insinuations. For he means that the conviction which he is forcing upon Othello from without shall appear a suspicion generated within him ; that the Moor shall, if possible, think himself acting from jealousy while really acting upon evidence. Thus he labours to complete his intellectual mastery over Othello; to make him own himself deceived by appearances; and the more preposterous the conclusion, the greater of course is his triumph in causing it to be received. The Moor is thus brought to see every thing with Iago's mind; to distrust all his original perceptions, abjure his own impressions, renounce his own understanding, and accept Iago's instead. And such, in fact, is the villain's aim, the very earnest and pledge of his intellectual mastery: nor is there any thing that he seems to enjoy more than the