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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Iago's Name
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2268  Wednesday, 22 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 21 Dec 1999 10:56:58 -0500
        Subj:   King Iago

[2]     From:   Martin Mueller <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Dec 1999 10:04:02 -0600
        Subj:   Iago and other names


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 21 Dec 1999 10:56:58 -0500
Subject:        King Iago

It doesn't seem to me likely that the king or his spies would be likely
to see any reference to him in the character of Iago, beyond the name
itself.  Unlike the use of Richard II during the reign of Elizabeth as a
symbol for deposition of a corrupt monarchy, there is little to tie the
character of Iago, symbolically or otherwise to contemporary criticism
of the reign of James.

Perhaps James is the Othello and Shakespeare the Iago who drops his name
like a handkerchief where it is sure to be discovered?

>On a different topic, I have a question regarding Othello.  I once read
>that the name Iago was Spanish for James (presumably of Islamic
>origin).  Since most scholars place the play's date of composition as
>1604, the first year of James I reign, why would Shakespeare risk the
>offense of his sovereign and patron by naming his most evil character
>synonymously with the king?
>
>Vince Locke
>Eastern Michigan University

Clifford Stetner

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Mueller <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Dec 1999 10:04:02 -0600
Subject:        Iago and other names

I cannot make much of a connection between Iago and King James. For one
thing, the names Iago and James don't sound much like one another (even
though they are related), and secondly, the name James is so common that
the intertextual hurdle is raised. But I'd like to ask some questions
about other names in Othello and Hamlet.  Why do Ophelia and Othello
have the names they have and why are they so much like each other?

Elena Fernandez del Valle  points out that Shakespeare took Desdemona's
name from Cinthio and that Disdemona is the only named character in the
novella. Outside of his histories, Shakespeare almost never kept the
names of his source characters, so the fact that he kept this one is a
significant choice. It testifies to minimal Greek: he knew that it meant
what we might today call Bad Karma and that its constituent parts are
'dus' and 'daimon'.  He almost certainly didn't know Heraklitus'
wonderful aphorism "ethos anthropoi daimon"  (

 

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