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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Ancient Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0059  Monday, 14 January 2002

[1]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 11:56:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago

[2]     From:   Louis Swilley <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 15:06:47 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 21:39:33 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 11:56:52 -0500
Subject: 13.0045 Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago

> A small but niggling point: how do people interpret 'ancient', when used
> of Iago? Custom, and the source, seem to demand 'ensign',
> 'standard-bearer'.  But has not the English army always assigned this
> role to a junior officer - a second lieutenant? Why would an Elizabethan
> writer employ the title for someone who expected to have Cassio's job,
> if not Othello's?
>
> 'Ancient' can, of course, mean 'senior'. Do we think Shakespeare
> intended this meaning, or did he feel that the secondary meaning 'old
> and trusted' was important enough to justify the military imprecision?
> The alternatives seem to be either that the role of ensign has been
> degraded (I think not) or that there was only a three-man officer
> command in the Venetian army.
>
> Brian Haylett

Military rank, even today, can pose problems. A Captain in the British
navy is the same rank as a full Colonel in the Army while a Captain in
the army is 3 ranks below both.

Army and navy both have the rank of lieutenant. In the navy an ensign
ranks below a lieutenant.

Keep in mind that Iago was annoyed that Cassio was a lieutenant while he
was only an Ancient/Ensign.

Was Iago annoyed because he had a higher rank than Cassio?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Swilley <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 15:06:47 -0600
Subject: 13.0045 Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago

Brian Haylett wrote,

"A small but niggling point: how do people interpret 'ancient', when
used of Iago? Custom, and the source, seem to demand 'ensign',
'standard-bearer'.  But has not the English army always assigned this
role to a junior officer - a second lieutenant? Why would an Elizabethan
writer employ the title for someone who expected to have Cassio's job,
if not Othello's?

"'Ancient' can, of course, mean 'senior'. Do we think Shakespeare
intended this meaning, or did he feel that the secondary meaning 'old
and trusted' was important enough to justify the military imprecision?
The alternatives seem to be either that the role of ensign has been
degraded (I think not) or that there was only a three-man officer
command in the Venetian army."

[While we are on this subject of Iago, would someone tell us what it
means in the play that Othello should turn from an experienced warrior -
I presume Iago is that - and choose the inexperienced "mathematician"
Cassio - and I presume that Cassio is less experienced than Iago - for
his second in command?  I sense that Othello's poor choice here is, in
the structure of ideas in the play,  associated  with his ill-fated
choice of Desdemona, but I don't know what to make of either choice as
part of  or related to Othello's flaw.

        [L. Swilley]

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jan 2002 21:39:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0045 Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0045 Ancient Iago

True. Playing devil's advocate, what if Iago were an older man?
Literally, he would have been passed over countless times. He would be
the ultimate disgruntled worker who decides to take matters into his own
hands.  He would also represent the figure of the old cuckold so often
presented in the classically influenced comedies. An interesting idea...

Brian Willis

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