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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Ancient Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0098  Thursday, 17 January 2002

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Jan 2002 12:49:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago

[2]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Jan 2002 14:30:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 03:53:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Jan 2002 12:49:32 -0500
Subject: 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago

Iago's social status is blurred by the Venetian setting; it is always
difficult to align the mercantile societies of the Italian city-states
with the land-based English system.  But it seems to me that most of the
signs indicate that he's a gentleman.  He associates as comfortably (and
in remarkably similar ways) with Roderigo as Sir Toby does with Sir
Andrew, speaks well, can aspire to relatively high military rank.  His
wife is deemed a suitable lady-in-waiting for the high-born Desdemona,
and speaks familiarly (as does Iago) of elevated Venetian society.  Then
as later, the army was a way for younger sons to make an independent
life.  The other character most like Iago, of course, is Edmund-gently
born, in a sense, and gently educated, but precluded by the accident of
birth-order from the kind of comfortable security offered to his
brother.

David Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Jan 2002 14:30:54 -0500
Subject: 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago

Don Bloom says,

"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."

And that is exactly  the way he is played on the BBC Othello as directed
by Jonathan Miller by ( I think) Bob Hoskins.

Mary Jane

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 03:53:58 -0500
Subject: 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0090 Re: Ancient Iago

As Sean points out, the use of large ordinance requires mathematics, not
only in engineering, but simply in the calculation of angles of
trajectories on paper when positioning large cannon. Othello's selection
of Cassio is evidence of his superior military wisdom (as his selection
by the Venetian doges over their native sons is therefore of theirs). In
the "ancient" form of warfare the motiveless malignancy of warriors is
an asset. Across the late middle ages and renaissance periods in Europe
this was no longer so, so the literature of the period is filled with
allegories of the replacement of the berserker warrior by the refined
and educated chivalric military commander, just as the anger of Achilles
is identified by Homer as no longer conducive to Greek imperialist
conquest in an earlier analogous process.  But just as Iago's kind is
obsolete because of his disdain for mathematics, Othello's is obsolete
for other reasons, and Lodovico and Cassio emerge as the new model for
the European military  state, which accounts for its successful
repulsion of the Turks, very much in question at the ostensible
historical period of the play.  There's no denying that Iago is a
talented warrior, as we see him effectively bringing down his opponent,
but his talents will not serve the new conditions of the war against the
Turks. That his own passions and ambitions outweigh considerations of
the greater good of the state is one of the qualities that made a
valuable commander in "barbarian" times, but, as with Achilles, it
becomes counterproductive in modern warfare.

My own experience as an enlisted man in the Navy was that the Chiefs,
while holding Ensigns and Lieutenant JG's in contempt, did not consider
themselves officer material and very rarely aspired beyond Warrant
Officer status.

Clifford

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