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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
Playing Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0229  Wednesday, 13 May 2009

[1] From:   Joseph Egert <
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     Date:   Monday, 11 May 2009 15:58:36 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0216 Playing Iago

[2] From:   Felix de Villiers <
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     Date:   Tuesday, 12 May 2009 09:36:10 +0200
     Subj:   Playing Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Joseph Egert <
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Date:       Monday, 11 May 2009 15:58:36 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0216 Playing Iago
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0216 Playing Iago

Don Bloom finds puzzling any imputation of serial killing to Othello and 
Iago:

"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."

Where?
 From our Stratford burgher.

Like the dyer's hand, many a soldier's soul (even in the best of causes) 
is left tainted by the blood he has shed  --  his nature 'subdu'd to 
what it works in' and 'pity chok'd with custom of fell deeds.' To that 
extent every victory is a defeat, and every battle won is a battle lost.

This is especially true of Iago. The mystery of his iniquity continues 
to baffle us as it did Othello. Is this champion of individual will even 
conscious of the forces driving him? Have those burning resentments and 
repressed lusts rendered him easy prey to outside powers? Were the 
monstrous conceptions with which he impregnates Othello's mind 
themselves planted in Iago by others mortal or im-?  Surely Iago is more 
demoniac than demon. Like Camus' 'Plague' this contagion of possession 
is spread by word and wit. In this play's sustained attack on the witch 
trials of the time, Shakespeare shows us it is the witchmongers, not 
their accused, who are truly bewitched. Can the innocent ever rest safe?

As is his wont, Myriad Man leaves open the knotty question of motive. A 
clue, though, may be Emilia's: "Some such squire it was that turned your 
wit the seamy side without", or "some wretch have put this in your 
head". Did Iago have his Iago (as Macbeth his Seyton)? King Iaco-bus in 
his DAEMONOLOGIE warns us the Devil or his familar may "be a continual 
attender, in forme of a Page." Indeed, Emila's 'squire' may recall the 
infamous Edward Squyer, hanged, quartered and bowelled in 1598 for 
attempting to poison Gloriana and Essex at the behest of the Jesuit 
Walpole in Spain. Attend their tale here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=migJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA437&lpg=PA437&dq=%22edward+squyer%22+walpole+dictionary&source=bl&ots=FDhDLT2Tc0&sig=dOtw-4QOSinSOE8t18QyliBFs-Q&hl=en&ei=eKUISpaFF6PcMMCQ8KID&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3#PPA436,M1

and here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=BqAXAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq=%22edward+squyer%22+walpole&source=bl&ots=NmLovI2RUZ&sig=Gcfu2G77I4wqvc8HwsJzv-NTMLI&hl=en&ei=jKkISp3OAovCM8D-yJsD&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA47,M1

Enjoy!
Joe Egert

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Felix de Villiers <
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Date:       Tuesday, 12 May 2009 09:36:10 +0200
Subject:    Playing Iago

I remain with my conviction that Othello and Iago are, as it were, two 
souls in the same breast, even if one of them is an empty soul, and that 
Iago is an alter-ego of the Othello's. There is obviously a monstrous 
susceptibility to jealousy in Othello, and Iago is telling him what he 
wants to hear. At the first hints of betrayal, Othello starts reeling 
off in an uncontrollable fit of jealousy which nothing can stop.

When Iago really gets to work on stoking up the jealousy his craftiness 
is so evident that a 'normal' person should have become suspicious.

Iago is the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Having just reread the play, 
I find more genius in Shakespeare's portrayal of him than I did before. 
The relative dryness of his language is the just counterpart to the more 
succulent language of Othello and others. Iago has none of the poetic 
depth of other evil doers, like the Macbeths. Apart from being a 
brilliantly portrayed villain, he reveals another dimension of truth of 
which he himself is unconscious: the unresolved conflict of our sexual 
impulses and the not very successful attempts by society to control 
them. Puritanism and pornography are the mirror images, one of the 
other. Iago is the almost pornographic purveyor of uncontrolled lust: it 
is that repressed side of nature that burgeons in his words and is an 
essential part of the truth of the play. At the other end of the moral 
scale, the slightest transgression from the marriage bond, for Othello, 
means disaster and chaos, the horror of nature unleashed to an 
exceedingly exaggerated degree. Emilia's defense of women and 
licentiousness is the corrective to this madness, even though she knows 
very well that Desdemona would never betray Othello. Cymbeline, at the 
end of his play, wonders why he made all the fuss.

By their very lily-white purity, some of Shakespeare's heroines attract sin.

Othello is the victim of his own jealousy. The poetic heights to which 
his words rise in the second part of the play give full expression to 
the suffering caused by the unresolved dichotomy between sex and 
society. The mirage of a resolution appears in Mozart's operas, Figaro 
and Cosi Van Tutte, in which sins and sinful thoughts are forgiven.

It is interesting that Iago, while playing so much on the theme of 
diabolic lust, does not appear to be affected by such desires himself. 
The only emotions he is capable of are ambition, hatred of individuals 
and the human race. Lacking sensuality himself, he appears as the 
detached evil genius that watches humans struggle and squirm with their 
feelings. He is not given the occasion to let forth like Aaron at the 
end of the play, but simply disappears. Could Shakespeare have managed 
his exit better? Everything up to this point has been high drama, very 
coherent, blow following on blow.

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