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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0435  Thursday, 11 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Maijan H. Al-Ruwaili <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 17:20:30 +0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0409 Re: Iago

[2]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 14:44:55 -0000
        Subj:   Re: Iago

[3]     From:   Mary Ann Bushman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 09:27:37 -0600
        Subj:   Iago

[4]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 12:38:50 CST6CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0422 Iago

[5]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 22:57:37 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0422 Re: Sins; Iago; Maps


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Maijan H. Al-Ruwaili <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 17:20:30 +0300
Subject: 10.0409 Re: Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0409 Re: Iago

>Sean Lawrence (Re: SHK 10.0393 Re: Iago, et al.) wrote:
>
>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.

First of all, thank you for your informative response. Cassio, however,
showed his inability to perform his professional duty at a time of war,
and thus merited Othello's reprimand in public (I know it is a plot
requirement, but it nevertheless validates Iago's earlier claim). Would
not it be that Shakespeare is also commenting on this kind of
professionalism in England?

>"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.

This is certainly true; yet one would wonder at the seizure of his
house: it does not seem that he was anxious to go back (he did not have
enough time to enjoy his marriage). For me, the point is that Desdemona
could not find a reason for Othello's anger except perhaps her suspicion
that her father could have a hand in his return. If Brabantio were not
dead, everyone would think along the same lines. This is significant
because it illuminates Othello's earlier reference to Brabantio's love
and that Brabantio could have been the reason for calling Othello back
(his cause at the Senate received attention equal to that accorded the
war itself). In terms of whether one would scorn or sympathize with
Othello, the interpretation of these two references would make Othello
as bad as anyone else in the play. Cassio, too, was so anxious to get
back his position and does not feel any shame; in fact, he makes it
obvious that regaining his position means regaining his reputation.

>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. [...]

Marriage for interest was common not only in Venice but all over the
world (Lawrence Stone whether in his The Family, Sex, and Marriage in
England: 1500-1800 or in The Crisis of the Aristocracy: 1558-1641,
documented interesting events). Be it as it may, that does not make
Othello any different from Iago or Roderigo who follows the war (perhaps
to earn some extra profits in addition to Desdemona).

>Otherwise, their [i.e, Army generals] 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.

This is perhaps the whole point. Stone too makes the same point (not in
reference to the play but to the social-political setting at large).
Thanks once more for the rich information you provided in such a small
space.

Maijan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 14:44:55 -0000
Subject:        Re: Iago

Clifford Stetner writes, of Iago, "He must simply be in a position to
play the stock Vice character to Othello's Everyman by the time the play
starts. Shakespeare commonly participates in the Renaissance
naturalization of idealized medieval art by supplying a few naturalistic
details (such as the suspicion of his wife's infidelity) to create an
illusion of realism."

My apologies in advance to Clifford but, as with his appeal to medieval
rhetoric in The Merchant, there is a great disparity between the
historical theory and the plays as we have them. No doubt we all learned
these things as undergraduates, but we might well ponder how useful they
have proved in later experience. Yes, elements in Iago, Falstaff and
others are inherited from "th'old Vice"; however, as an explanation of
the characters themselves, the Vice is virtually a non-starter.

The Middle Ages also produced The Roman de la Rose, and Chaucer made it
popular in England. I will quote John Vyvyan: "Guillaume de Lorris is
the first poet deliberately to clothe the inner population with
personality and to present its activities as a drama in the outer world.
He had, of course, many imitators - some of whom were extremely dull and
clumsy; but Shakespeare bettered his instruction. He produced a fusion
of realism and allegory in which there are not only dual characters, but
also a dual plot."

You choose your medieval influence and I'll choose mine. But I shall
never forget the excitement of first reading Vyvyan and Goddard, even if
some of their detailed dissection seems questionable now. The
"allegorical" reading will never be popular, but it is the real
"alternative Shakespeare" (and a great deal more interesting than those
presented under that title in recent years).

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Ann Bushman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 09:27:37 -0600
Subject:        Iago

I'm searching for a source for a possible plagiarism on Othello.  The
paragraph in question begins, "Iago's character before the time of the
play cannot have been similar to his character during it."

I seem to recall that someone on the list claimed to have argued this
point in almost these words.  Replies off-list welcome.  Thanks.

Mary Ann Bushman
English Dept.
Illinois Wesleyan Univ.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 12:38:50 CST6CDT
Subject: 10.0422 Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0422 Iago

Terry Martin [wants] "to see an Iago who looks solidly reliable but who
is anything but."

I thought Kenneth Branagh did this quite well in the recent film
version. I, too, have seen far too many Iagos who looked anything but
honest, so when I first heard about the casting I was delighted. The
performance was everything I had hoped for.

Chris Gordon

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 22:57:37 -0500
Subject: 10.0422 Re: Sins; Iago; Maps
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0422 Re: Sins; Iago; Maps

Terry Martin writes
>Unfortunately, almost all Iagos that I have seen
>on stage or film would not be trusted an inch by the average theatre
>goer.

I have found that the Bob Hoskins Iago from the BBC version is quite
well played.  Students who don't know the plot (HS kids) are shocked at
his behavior when they realize just how manipulative he is.

I must admit it's been several years since I used that video w/
students-I've had student teachers who have done Othello for those
years.  Perhaps it was the students' association of Hoskins w/ Who
Killed Roger Rabbit that kept them from seeing seedy as equivalent to
shady?

Marilyn Bonomi
 

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