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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
Iago and the Joker
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0474  Friday, 15 August 2008

[1] From:   Virginia Byrne <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2008 21:45:35 EDT
     Suct:   Re: SHK 19.0463  Iago and the Joker

[2] From:   Murray Schwartz <
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     Date:   Thu, 14 Aug 2008 10:00:03 -0400
     Suct:   RE: SHK 19.0463 Iago and the Joker

[3] From:   Conrad Cook <
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     Date:   Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 11:02:24 -0400
     Suct:   Re: SHK 19.0450 Iagogo

[4] From:   Sophie Masson <
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     Date:   Saturday, 16 Aug 2008 08:32:01 +1000
     Suct:   Re: SHK 19.0463 Iago and the Joker


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Virginia Byrne <
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Date:       Wednesday, 13 Aug 2008 21:45:35 EDT
Subject: 19.0463  Iago and the Joker
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0463  Iago and the Joker

Except, the Joker gave us some pretty clear motives for his aberrations. . . . 
Namely his father who cut his mouth into an eternal smile. . . . now nowhere do 
I get ANY reason for Iago's issues. . . . or am I missing something? . . . 
wasn't or isn't . . . that what is so intriguing about Iago?

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Murray Schwartz <
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Date:       Thu, 14 Aug 2008 10:00:03 -0400
Subject: 19.0463 Iago and the Joker
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0463 Iago and the Joker

When I saw the Batman movie, I immediately thought of the Joker as a Vice 
figure, even more "motivelessly" malign than Iago.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Conrad Cook <
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Date:       Thursday, 14 Aug 2008 11:02:24 -0400
Subject: 19.0450 Iagogo
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0450 Iagogo

Aaron Azlant <
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 >

 >Speaking of Iago, and risking a hefty tangent, does anybody know if there's been
 >any discussion about his echoes in the character of the Joker in the new Batman
 >movie?
 >
 >Now that you're done laughing, I'll just offer this:

No, it's very interesting.

 >the writers behind this
 >Joker seem to be both familiar with Auden's essay and to have designed the
 >character as an over determined, ultimately motiveless malignity.

One criticism I think you'll have to address in order to maintain this is that 
Iago is out to ruin Othello, whereas the Joker seems far more focused on doing 
harm to Gotham than to Batman. He has the speech where he's hanging upside-down, 
Antichrist-wise, in which he speaks of Batman almost like a lover; I don't 
recall the details, but you may find some material there to address this objection.

Both the Joker and Iago as villains who maneuver the heroes into betraying their 
women -- well, the women's relationships with the heroes' rivals don't 
correspond, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker.

As I see it, though, the primary difficulty you'll have in maintaining this is 
that the Joker *does* state his motivation:  "Nobody panics when everything is 
going according to plan." As I understand it, there is a moral quality to the 
Joker's ubermenschesque objection to, and disruption of, the status quo:  that 
is, he is saying that the status quo, which depends for its maintenance on only 
the right people being killed, is inherently evil, and he sees his task as 
exposing that evil to the light of day. Thus the ferry scene, which doesn't work 
because (the movie claims) people are inherently good; or good enough.

Conversely, Batman must be duped into thinking that his girl stood by him until 
the end (an interesting reversal of Othello), while the (American) public must 
be duped into thinking Batman is a villian for violating the rule of 
civilizations, whereas in fact he is what makes civilization impossible. That 
is, I'd say the Joker is more of a Roscharch (if you've read _Watchmen_) or a V 
(if you've read _V for Vendetta_) than an Iago; but the possibility that there's 
a repurposing of Iago is very thought-provoking.

As I see it, _Batman_ develops the notion that civilization is based on evil -- 
because the plan is that the right people die -- but that this evil must remain 
hidden, because civilization is necessary for the inherently good people. The 
fact that people are inherently good redeems the visciousness of the plan, and 
paradoxically civilization redeems Batman by, at the end, hunting him.

Conversely, in _Othello_ we have a society which is disrupted by a lie -- not 
preserved -- and by Iago's successful representation to many people of the 
motives of many others. Iago is more like an evil version of someone you'd find 
in the old _Mission: Impossible_ series -- he doesn't much get his hands dirty. 
Also, it's thought-provoking to my mind that in _Othello_ the evidence is not so 
much planted as removed -- and therefore the lie is proven by an absence of 
evidence -- while on the other hand the lie in _Batman_ is maintained by the 
removal of the letter=allowing Gotham to believe they must hunt down Batman.

Frankly, I don't know right now whether I can buy into your thesis; but I think 
that makes it a really excellent thesis. All the best with it & I hope you'll 
let us know what you end up with.

Conrad.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Sophie Masson <
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Date:       Saturday, 16 Aug 2008 08:32:01 +1000
Subject: 19.0463 Iago and the Joker
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0463 Iago and the Joker

An interesting point. It's true that both characters share that seemingly 
motiveless malignity -- which is actually a diabolical sort of purpose, isn't 
it, the Devil as malign joker/trickster whose desire is to see the world burn 
and the good lured into evil. As well, they both share that maniac, yet oddly 
light-touched sort of comedy . . . a horrible perceptiveness about human nature 
and a deadly sort of nerve. As well, we never feel pity for them -- they are so 
far removed from the normal that they appear almost soulless.

It would be a nice idea to think that the writers did have Iago in mind!

Sophie Masson

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