Othello, unlike Iago, is capable of forming strong, loving relationships; his genuine friendship with Iago confirms this fact. Othello allows himself to be influenced by Iago, and allows Iago to bring out his most evil characteristics. Although Iago may be the more innately evil of the two, Othello does little to prevent his base instincts from becoming dominant. To see why Othello commits his crime and why he has to be held accountable for it, we must examine his motive. It can be claimed that what actually causes Othello to commit murder is not his being mentally weakened and manipulated by Iago, but rather his own pride and lack of confidence which he allows to gain control. Othello is a strong leader, self-assured in his ability to handle military matters, but he is insecure with his personal qualities. He is in a new city with different customs. He has a new bride - a young and beautiful girl - whom he loves but does not know well. He is unsure why Desdemona would choose him for her husband, and can only fathom one explanation, "She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd." (1.3.167)
The Moor surely is aware of the widespread prejudice in Venice and certainly must question why Desdemona would defy her culture and fellow white Venetians by marrying a black man. Othello has his doubts about Desdemona before Iago begins his scheming. Even though his wife shows nothing but love for him, Othello cannot believe in her love wholeheartedly. His answer to his doubts is, initially, to put Desdemona on a pedestal, making her an "emblem of purity and trustworthiness" (Kenneth Muir, Aspects of Othello, 17).
'Tis not to make me jealous
To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company,
Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well.
Where virtue is, these are more virtuous.
Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw
The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt,
For she had eyes, and chose me.(3.3.208-14)
Othello is going reach the precarious conclusion that Desdemona's compassion and virtue alone enable her to love the unlovable. When Iago does shatter the Moor's idealistic image of Desdemona, he is simply reinforcing what Othello believes deep down to be totally possible: that Desdemona could love another man. Iago cleverly argues that Desdemona is quite capable of betrayal because she has already betrayed her own race and breeding to marry a Moor:
Ay, there's the point! as (to be bold with you)
Not to affect many proposed matches
Of her own clime, complexion, and degree,
Whereto we see in all things nature tends ...
Her will, recoiling to her better judgement,
May fall to match you with her country forms,
And happily repent. (3.3.228-34)
With Iago's validation of his suspicions, the Moor's barbaric nature can surface. His warrior instincts can take over, which is exactly what Othello wanted all along. He is comfortable only in the role of the aggressor. Why does Othello not make a better effort to combat Iago's accusations? It is true that he asks for some material proof of his wife's treachery, but he does not at all question the evidence when it is laid