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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0158.  Friday, 31 January 1997.

(1)     From:   James Schaefer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Jan 1997 13:27:17 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Iago

(2)     From:   Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Jan 97 14:19:00 CST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0149  Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis

(3)     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Jan 1997 16:23:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0149 Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Jan 1997 13:27:17 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Iago

I suppose this reveals a native-English-speaker's naivete, but:  I've known
since I took Spanish in high school that "Diego" is James in Spanish, as in
"San Diego," and even "Santiago."  But it did not dawn on me until I recently
purchased the Anonymous 4's CD of medieval hymns to/about "Sant'Iago" that Iago
was James, too.  Othello and James.  Which leads me to wonder if Truffaut's
_Jules and Jim_, even if it is based (my info is from Pauline Kael's, _I Lost
It at the Movies_) on an autobiographical novel, might not be seen as a modern
reworking of *Othello*, with a Desdemona who WAS adulterous, and despairing?  I
haven't seen the film in years -- nay, decades.

In another thread, we SHAKSPERians have been talking about meaning derived from
contexts, or creating contexts.  Kael's 35-year-old review of _Jules and Jim_
begins by citing the Legion of Decency's (remember that?) condemnation of the
film:

"the statement read [she writes]:  the story has been developed 'in a context
alien to Christian and traditional natural morality.'"

The substance of this condemnation aside, I find it interesting that somehow
the story ITSELF was not blamed, but THE CONTEXT in which it was "developed."
Is this the context created in/by the narrative of the film, or the context of
society in the very early '60's, or the particular artists who created it, or
...?  There are, of course, no stories (or anything, for that matter) WITHOUT
context, but this has always been a slippery area.  Moral absolutists always
run the risk of tarring themselves with their own brush.  Like the old jokes
about the vice squad's review of confiscated movies, one wonders if the
Legion's members felt they had sinned in screening such a film for review?
(They condemned _Baby Doll_, too, leading pastors to denounce it from pulpits
across the country.)  What part of the "context" could have been changed to
make it a "clean" and "moral" story -- one like *Othello*, in which we watch
Desdemona die like one of St. Ursula's "virgin martyrs," making it all OK?

Just thinking out loud here.
Jim Schaefer

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Jan 97 14:19:00 CST
Subject: 8.0149  Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0149  Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis

On another note, one thing that my students pointed out to me in class
discussion was that Iago acts precisely in the way that an abusive husband
would act--as anyone who has heard the horror stories of a women's shelter can
attest.  An abuser is often irrationally jealous (suspecting even the wife who,
despite the fact that she is forbidden to leave the house, still gets the crap
beat out of her because she didn't answer the phone on the first ring--she must
have been in bed with another man)  So there is a third option in addition to
seeing Iago either as pure evil, or seeing him as gay.

Lysbeth Em Benkert
Northern State University

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Jan 1997 16:23:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0149 Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0149 Re: Iago, Homosexuality, and Psychosis

I had read a review of the new film version of "Othello" that played up Iago's
homosexuality before I saw the film...so I was prepared to see this
interpretation, BUT IT JUST ISN'T THAT OVERT IN THE FILM. I very
unscientifically polled the audience members around me after the film (this was
in Berkeley, California...not a real conservative town) and they didn't see it
either. I have since shwon a video of this film to a group of hormonally
overcharged teenagers, and THEY didn't think Iago was particularly gay.

I do agree, however that Iago's final death tableaux was symbolic of some kind
of special relationship with Othello, be it sexual, loving, honorable or
jealous.

I suppose one finds what one goes looking for.

Billy Houck
Arroyo Grande High School
 

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