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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0203 Friday, 25 May 2012
Date: May 24, 2012 12:47:10 PM EDT
Subject: RE: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs
I wonder if the sentence in question, though it has a number of biblical resonances, points elsewhere in ‘Othello’, giving Iago’s utterance a heavily ironic context. The direction in which I am thinking is the hero himself who clearly is not what he is: he has a ‘black’ exterior but ‘fair’ interior. He is only present to himself briefly in Act 5 immediately after the murder of Desdemona, and it is Aemilia who points this out, although it is never sustained. The issue here, surely is one of ‘presence’ in the Derridean sense of the term. Absolute ‘presence’ might be ‘God’ as in the opening of NT John. Iago is surely identified as ‘satanic, though I’m not sure that Joe Egert’s invocation of Coleridge’s ‘motiveless malignity’ is of much help. Iago’s problem is that he has an abundance of motives, some of which he shares with Claudius, or Macbeth, and these we can unpack in relation to different forms of ‘ambition’. In Othello—as elsewhere in Shakespeare, there are repetitions of the conflict between God and Satan and this clearly structures Renaissance psychology in interesting and nuanced ways. Ours is a much more secular account of motivation (as Andre Greene’s reading in ‘The Tragic Effect’ might suggest).
I’m not sure that the claimed link with Viola is very helpful either, since the context in TN is completely different; although it has to be admitted that the actor, always in disguise, and the dramatist conscious of the practice, both have open to them this ‘fact’ as a powerful metaphorical resource.