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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0409  Tuesday, 9 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Mar 1999 11:56:03 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Iago

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Mar 1999 00:04:39 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Mar 1999 11:56:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Iago

Dave,

Do you mean Jack Nicholson? If so, yea! He'd be a perfect Iago! He's
already played the devil [in The Witches of Eastwick].

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 Mar 1999 00:04:39 -0800
Subject: 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.

Maijan writes:

>The importance of Brabantio to Othello resembles that of Othello to
>Cassio; as I have argued the case a few years back, Brabantio must have
>a hand in imploring the State of Venice to employ Othello in the same
>way Othello deputed Cassio for the latter's pains in going between the
>lovers. Otherwise he is bookish and unable to lead (Iago's assessment is
>validated by Cassio's actions in Cyprus, Othell's open rebuke, and the
>fact that Montano did even know him).

This isn't exactly conclusive.  According to John Hale, it was quite
common to hire military experts with a background in mathematics but no
field experience.  Often such proto-professionals were foreigners, hired
for their skill rather than approved loyalty.  In any case, this would
make Cassio the perfect match to Othello, who's an excellent and very
experienced leader, but not trained in military engineering.

>Although the point needs further
>exposition, I take the lead from two far afield statements. In IV,ii,
>45-48 (Ross) Desdemona says: "If haply you my father do suspect/ An
>instrument of this your calling back/ Lay not your blame on me; if you
>LOST him,/ Why I have lost him too." Since the play provides no reason
>why Othello is relieved from his post, one may go back to Othello's
>statement in I,iii, 127: "Her father LOVED me oft invited me."

It implies a reason in that the war is over already.  In 3.2, almost
always cut in production, we see Othello taking care of the remaining
duties of Cyprus's governor, maintaining correspondence and inspecting
fortifications.  This is a job, of course, better left to a "great
mathematician" than a combat hero.  As I understand it, garrison duty
was considered somewhat effeminate by 16th century soldiers, so Othello
might actually be grateful for a return to Venice awaiting the next
combat assignment, rather than languishing in a quiet theatre.  In Henry
VIII, Surrey's being sent "deputy for Ireland" seems tantamount to
exile.

I think that Othello's viewing Desdemona as wealth shouldn't be
oversimplified (as I'm arguing on another thread, inconsistency doesn't
always imply ill-will, and few men love in such a way as to be
completely unallied with other motives).  His insistence on her status
as wealth, especially as land, however, reinforces the fact that he
seeks a position within the Venetian state.  While Venetian generals in
the 16th century were generally mercenaries (one was a condotierri
pulled out of the leads prison, who had early attacked Venice), they
were granted land on the terra firma by way of incorporating them into
the state.

Otherwise, their position is very anxious in the 16th century
setting-apart from the church, there really was no meritocracy analogous
to that by which a really good soldier, even a Moor, could take control
of the armies of an important state.  Hale sees the grants of land as
being given to "explain" power and title.  Othello can offer no such
explanation, which leaves him grasping at his military acumen, vague
genealogy, or "service" generally.  Desdemona as land would remove the
need for such over-explanations altogether.

Cheers,
Se

 

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