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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
Iago and the Joker
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0493  Wednesday, 20 August 2008

[1] From:   Virginia Byrne <
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     Date:   Monday, 18 Aug 2008 11:00:53 EDT
     Subj:   Re: SHK 19.0477  Iago and the Joker

[2] From:   Aaron Azlant <
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     Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2008 12:04:17 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 19.0477 Iago and the Joker


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Virginia Byrne <
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Date:       Monday, 18 Aug 2008 11:00:53 EDT
Subject: 19.0477  Iago and the Joker
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0477  Iago and the Joker

Thanks for the clarification about my comments of the reasons given for The 
Joker's scars. I guess by the time he changed his story I was asleep.( yes from 
boredom).

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Aaron Azlant <
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Date:       Tuesday, 19 Aug 2008 12:04:17 -0400
Subject: 19.0477 Iago and the Joker
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0477 Iago and the Joker

Just a few points (spoiler inclusive):

I don't think that the overlap between Iago and the Joker is total. For 
instance, although they are both sociopaths, Iago's leverage over people comes 
from the fact that he is repeatedly taken in as a confidant and then maneuvers 
characters against each other (interestingly enough, always two at a time). This 
Joker's style is much more overt.

Both, however, offer a surplus of contradictory explanations -- both characters 
for their motivations and Joker for the origin of his scars as well. Joker 
claims to be motivated by a disrespect for "scheming," although his is the 
unbroken plan, from the beginning of the movie until well after his last scene. 
He discounts greed as a motive (bizarrely listing gas as a cheap commodity) 
after he shows off his fancy suit funded through a share-maximizing bank heist. 
First, he wants to kill the Batman, but then he doesn't want to because the 
Batman completes him, etc. Similarly, Iago is angry for being passed over, is 
jealous of the daily beauty in Othello's life, bizarrely believes that Othello 
has cuckolded him, is contemptuous of Othello's race, and so on. A similar 
phenomenon obtains with other Shakespearean characters, most notably with 
Hamlet, though that's a topic probably best saved for another email.

In this, by the way, I think that this Joker is different from Rorschach in The 
Watchmen, who is basically a crazy reactionary antihero with a somewhat Freudian 
backstory (interesting connection, though). I haven't read V for Vendetta, 
though I saw the movie; Alan Moore seems to give his characters relatively firm 
motivations from the other work that I've read. Which brings up an interesting 
comparison to the 1989 Batman film: there the Joker (and Keaton's Batman to an 
extent) was given a simple, singular motive: i.e. he's just crazy. Interestingly 
enough, however, I think that the scrambling of motives in The Dark Knight 
presented that same idea more effectively, if only because it demonstrated a 
motivelessness without any need for repeated exposition.

The Wikipedia article about the Glasgow Smile was grim but extremely interesting 
-- it turns out that one of the original inspirations for the Joker was a 
character with this deformity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Laughs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Laughs_(1928_film)

The Nolan Brothers seem to have done their homework on this one. The Auden 
essay, which emphasizes the fundamentally anti-social nature of practical jokes 
(even if it wants to apply a singular motivation to Iago), is one possible 
bridge between the two characters -- it's been a while since I've read it 
through, but I think that Auden also talks a bit about the nature of the Vice 
character that both Joker and Iago descend from. I'm not sure if the writers 
read this essay, but hey, I wouldn't be surprised if they had.

--Aaron

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