Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Ancient Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0075  Tuesday, 15 January 2002

[1]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jan 2002 10:53:19 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

[2]     From:   Alberto Cacicedo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jan 2002 11:19:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jan 2002 10:46:08 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jan 2002 18:52:04 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Jan 2002 10:53:19 EST
Subject: 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

Dear Friends,

Iago, by his own confession, is 28 years old. Of course, he's lying
about his age as he is about everything else. I've yet to meet anyone
who thought Iago was Othello's ancient because he was the older man, but
I'm young yet.

Has anyone consulted Charlie Edelman's "Shakespeare's Military
Language," which is full of good stuff about ancients and everything
else military ...  and some very good new findings re "Othello" in his
discussion of Shakespeare's reliance on Digges' view of military men,
manners, and math in "Stratioticos"?

Steve Sohmer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alberto Cacicedo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Jan 2002 11:19:51 -0500
Subject: 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

> [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]

My sense has always been that the difference between Iago and Cassio, at
least in regard to their military experience, is the difference between
someone who has gone to West Point and someone who has risen through the
ranks.  In the context of the play, that difference also plays into
social rank, which seems to me important in a number of ways in the
play, not least as one element of Iago's motivation.  Social rank no
doubt has its privileges, and Cassio benefits there from:  but it also
arouses a great deal of antipathy, jealousy, and hatred, each of which
describes a facet of Iago's characterization.  I don't think that any of
this makes it inevitable to conclude that Othello's choice of Cassio is
"poor."  The Venetian senate thinks highly enough of Cassio to make him
governor when it recalls Othello.  I also wonder whether it'd be likely
for a general to appoint as his second in command the husband of his
wife's servant.  At any rate, I think Cassio's appointment means that
Othello is alive to distinctions in social rank.  I also think that
Othello includes himself within the higher social rank--in other words,
I do not think that his marrying Desdemona is, from his point of view, a
violation of "degree."  He is, after all, descended from "men of royal
siege," and so outranks Brabantio socially as much as he outranks Iago
militarily.  Iago turns to racial difference as a way to lower Othello's
rank, but the only racists in the play are the people, specifically
Roderigo and Brabantio, who are directly under Iago's influence.
Othello has, I think, poor judgment in marrying Desdemona, but only in
the sense that both he and Desdemona have acted surreptitiously, without
the father's consent.

Al Cacicedo

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Jan 2002 10:46:08 -0600
Subject: 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

Vis a vis Iago and rank:

I may be quite wrong about this, but I've never had any problem here.
All the notes indicated that ancient/ensign was outranked by lieutenant,
and that Iago was jealous because the younger Cassio got the higher
position.  Nor did I have a problem with Othello's making the choice.
Cassio is clearly a gentleman in ways that Iago is not. This should make
him better fit for higher command. In Shakespeare's day one would assume
that a man born to higher station would be better suited to military
command.

(Of course, some were not -- with disastrous results.)

Iago has always struck me as having -- his insanity aside -- a classic
senior non-com mentality. Moreover, his dissatisfaction with his rank
was further evidence of that insanity. Normally, non-coms do not want to
be officers, nor thought of as gentlemen with all those expectations.
They want considerable power and respect within a limited combat or
administrative group, but the social expectations of officers fill them
with horror.

Othello's trust in Iago has to me always seemed reflective of that role
and rank. The general trusts the honest sergeant most because he is not
an officer and thus shouldn't be afflicted with jealousy and ambition.
That is, Othello might have worried that Iago would be jealous if the
position of ensign had gone to some other soldier, but since Iago has
gotten the highest position to which he could aspire he must be free of
jealousy and ambition.

I may be as much of a cockeyed optimist as Ensign Forbush, but this has
never bothered me -- nor, for that matter, has Othello's jealousy, that
depends so much on his trust of the honest soldier. It's always made
perfect, if horrible, sense.

Cheers,
don

P.S. Thanks to those who explained that the subtitles on *Dad's Army*
were what we Yanks call "closed captions for the hearing impaired." Made
immediate sense and rendered all that accent speculation superfluous.
Wasn't it Shaw who said the British and the Americans were two peoples
separated by a common language?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Jan 2002 18:52:04 -0800
Subject: 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0059 Re: Ancient Iago

Louis Swilley asks,

>[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.

It's not necessarily a poor choice.  As an old warrior himself, Othello
doesn't need a clone as second-in-command.  What he does need is someone
who can handle the new mathematical demands of military engineering and
logistics.  West Point and (Canada's) Royal Military College remain
basically engineering schools, to this day.

Cheers,
Se

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.