Almost every tragedy has a villain, to provide the conflict which catapults the plot into its bitter end. William Shakespeare was a master at providing an audience with a keen insight into the human psyche through the actions and words of his heroes, and even more so, his villains. Perhaps the two most infamous villains in all of Shakespearian literature are the characters of Iago in Othello and Claudius in Hamlet. Both major characters in their respective plays, Claudius and Iago are driven by immoral ambitions. However, unlike many "evil villains" in literature, these two characters are far more complex than may be seen at first, and Shakespeare manages to give us a unique three-dimensional view into their wicked minds.
First of all, when reading Hamlet and Othello, Iago and Claudius are both portrayed as clever and conniving when speaking a soliloquy or otherwise thinking to themselves, but give off an amicable impression to the other characters around them. For example, in Othello, after convincing Roderigo that everything will work out and promising to help him win over Desdemona, Iago delivers his first soliloquy saying.
Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;.
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane.
If I would time expend with such snipe.
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor .
The main difference between Claudius and Iago, which makes Iago far more evil than Claudius, is simply Claudius's guilt. Both men are able to perform terrible acts, such as Claudius's murder and adultery and Iago's manipulation of everyone surrounding him. They are also both able to present an outward show of poise and grace but Claudius feels guilty for the wrongdoings he has carried out while Iago does not feel the slightest bit of remorse for his actions. In fact, he constantly tries to convince the audience that he is righteous and is merely seeking revenge against the ones who wronged him - Cassio for being promoted above him and Othello for promoting Cassio.