Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
Playing Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0216  Wednesday, 6 May 2009

[1] From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Saturday, 02 May 2009 17:15:51 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

[2] From:   David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Saturday, 2 May 2009 17:25:16 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

[3] From:   Eric Johnson-DeBaufre <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Sunday, 3 May 2009 09:44:02 -0400
     Subj:   Iago and Venetian meritocracy

[4] From:   Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Sunday, 3 May 2009 13:53:32 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

[5] From:   Julia Griffin <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Sunday, 03 May 2009 21:32:08 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

[6] From:   Donald Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Monday, 4 May 2009 15:44:59 -0500
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Saturday, 02 May 2009 17:15:51 -0400
Subject: 20.0210 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

Lynn Brenner doesn't feel any more "twinges of sympathy" for Capulet 
than she does for Iago. Not even when he is content to allow Romeo and 
his Montague buddies crash his party with impunity and rails against 
Tybalt for his intolerance?

Capulet strikes me as one of the good guys. His insistence on Juliet's 
marriage to Paris is in ignorance of the actual situation and at least 
as much for Juliet's good as his own. I don't see how we can ascribe any 
tears he sheds in the scene in which he threatens to disown Juliet as 
"for himself" alone, certainly unless we see it performed that way.

[2] -----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Saturday, 2 May 2009 17:25:16 -0400
Subject: 20.0210 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

"I'm hard put to think of a less likeable character than Iago."

"Likeable" is not a term you can define sharply, but anybody playing 
this role has to deal with the many data of the text that show almost 
all the other characters treating Iago as though they find him 
charming, trustworthy, truthful, and probably thrifty, brave, clean, 
and reverent, too. During those scenes, playing the part in ways that 
make the behavior of the others on stage incomprehensible or at least 
stupid seems to me sure to arouse big-time cognitive dissonance -- and 
to  lose the delicious dramatic irony produced by those other moments, 
especially the soliloquies, that reveal his other side. But as so  often 
in Shakespeare it's the actions that speak most strongly to us,  not the 
words (consider all those places where the words of the text,  even 
their own words, proclaim womens' inconstancy while their actions 
bespeak the opposite). On those grounds, I see no reason why Iago 
should not charm us, as well -- love the sinner even as we detest the sin.

Veterans of this list will have seen before my comments about Ian 
Richardson's performance as that other Iago, Edmund, in Peter Brook's 
*Lear*, who took his first soliloquy with his legs dangling over the 
apron, as winsome as may be, and stood up again having made all of us 
in the house at least half-willing confederates in his plot. (He took  a 
similar approach as Bill Haydon in the fine TV adaptation of Le  Carre's 
  *Tinker, Tailor* and indeed made a career as a charming  Machiavel.) 
Far more interesting than somebody whose villainy oozes in  an apparent 
way all the time.

Disarmingly,
David Evett

[3] -----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Eric Johnson-DeBaufre <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Sunday, 3 May 2009 09:44:02 -0400
Subject:    Iago and Venetian meritocracy

Larry Weiss writes:

"I don't see Iago as a typical proto-democrat reacting against the 
unjust privileges of the upper classes. Ironically, Venice's incomplete 
adoption of meritocratic policies  --  the kind of thing that allows 
someone like Othello to become commander-in-chief  --  causes Iago to 
resent more acutely the slight of being passed over in favour of a git 
like Cassio. Iago sees himself (correctly, to my mind) as the only truly 
intelligent person he knows. His actions are all designed to prove that, 
to himself at least."

The language of meritocracy muddies the waters. Iago's resentment of 
Cassio is not that he is "a git," although Iago clearly devalues 
Cassio's "bookish theoric" (1.1.23). Rather, Iago objects to the changed 
grounds by which one obtains "preferment": "letter and affection" 
(1.1.35) vs. "old gradation, where each second / Stood heir to th' 
first" (1.1.36-37).

There isn't a meritocratic impulse to be found here. Iago doesn't see 
himself as meriting advancement in the terms in which we understand 
"meritocracy" (i.e. based on demonstrated ability); rather, he sees 
himself as deserving the office simply because he has worked his way 
through the channels and put in his time.

Iago is thus a defender of hide-bound tradition and hereditary office 
holding. He's the voice of conservative reaction.

Eric Johnson-DeBaufre

[4] -----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Joseph Egert <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Sunday, 3 May 2009 13:53:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0210 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

Larry Weiss writes:

"And from Joe Egert:

 >Iago's class resentment seems deep and abiding in both his conduct
 >and ironic echoing of others' patronizing use of 'good' and
'honest'.
 >Like Hamlet and Macbeth, he lacks advancement.

I don't see Iago as a typical proto-democrat reacting against the unjust 
privileges of the upper classes. Ironically, Venice's incomplete 
adoption of meritocratic policies  --  the kind of thing that allows 
someone like Othello to become commander-in-chief  --  causes Iago to 
resent more acutely the slight of being passed over in favour of a git 
like Cassio. Iago sees himself (correctly, to my mind) as the only truly 
intelligent person he knows. His actions are all designed to prove that, 
to himself at least."

But, Larry, haven't you heard? Democracies are spawned and nourished on 
envy. It is their natural aliment, their lifeblood. Though the delivery 
may be boody and as ugly as the Furies' face, they are nonetheless 
envy's natural creation. For envy uses the resentments of creatures like 
Iago, Edmund, Shylock, and Cassius both to destabilize hierarchies and 
as the ultimate check and balance in any republican polity of fallen 
Man. The reason the Venetian Signory employed an alien like Othello to 
lead their host was to forestall another Caesar rising from their own 
ranks, who might destroy their most serene republic. Outsiders like 
Othello and Shylock were not bid for love, but only for their service, 
as Iago clearly understood, despite the Duke's expedient judgment for 
Othello and against Brabantio. Only Desdemona made the bid for love and 
paid the price, thus exposing Venetian profession of its Christian 
body's Pauline integration as a sham in practice.

And from Alan Pierpoint:

"Joseph Egert writes:

 >Budding? Both Othello and Iago have been trained serial killers for 
much of
their lives in the endless wars that make ambition virtue.<

Okay, veteran serial killer. But are you suggesting that all soldiers, 
or all soldiers who kill people, are serial killers, or on the same 
moral plane as Iago? Are you putting Othello on that plane?"

Unlike many early modern Bible translators, I distinguish between 'kill' 
and 'murder' in accurately translating the Hebrew Commandment as "Thou 
shalt not murder." Nonetheless there is a sense in which every war 
machine produces 'honorable murderers' like Othello or Duncan's creature 
Macbeth.

Regards,
Joe Egert

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Julia Griffin <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Sunday, 03 May 2009 21:32:08 -0400
Subject: 20.0210 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

Marvin Rosenberg, in The Masks of Othello,  repeats Ellen Terry's story 
of playing Desdemona to Irving's Iago: Irving was so moved by her appeal 
("What shall I do ..?") that his eyes filled with tears; then "seizing 
on those tears as handy properties, [he] ostentatiously dashed them away 
and blew his nose 'softly and with much feeling,' conjuring from true 
emotion the very essence of hypocrisy".

Perhaps the Alley production and Schreiber' performance, described by 
Lynn Brenner, had the same effect - and perhaps the same origin ..?  In 
any case, the sound of Irving blowing his nose with much feeling must 
have had a powerful effect on the audience.

Julia Griffin

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Donald Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Monday, 4 May 2009 15:44:59 -0500
Subject: 20.0210 Playing Iago
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0210 Playing Iago

At the risk of descending into mere curmudgeonry, I must confess that I 
find this thread identifying Othello and Iago as serial killers puzzling.

If it is merely anti-military hyperbole, I will let it go.

But if it is meant seriously, then I have to ask where on earth it comes 
from.

I can't claim any immediate knowledge of serial killers, but what I do 
know suggests that their mentality is quite different from that of 
professional soldiers, such as we may generalize about that group.

Of the latter, I knew quite a few at one long-lost time of my life. I 
didn't like most of them and they didn't like me, but they seemed to be 
particularly unlikely to follow the path taken by genuine serial killers.


_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.