How Iago Defines The World

Now there’s a scary headline if I’ve ever heard one.  How bad is the world, exactly, if you’re defining it in Iago terms? The New York Times spins off the recent badly reviewed Othello, by Peter Sellars, to look at who Iago is and what he’s always meant. Focusing on the themes of “transparency” versus “secrecy”, the article takes  a number of interesting turns.  The new movie “The Invention of Lying” comes up, as does Michael Jackson’s death, David Letterman, and of course, Obama.

The moral agony of “Othello” is, in fact, that its bone-chilling villain is the only character who is in possession of the play’s truth. Through his machinations, Iago demonstrates that directness and honesty are, indeed, not safe — and in fact never are — because the overly transparent victim sometimes invites the predator’s manipulations and so becomes complicit with him.


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2 thoughts on “How Iago Defines The World

  1. That is scary. I have heard Iago called the most evil character in Shakespeare. It's interesting to me that in stage history, actors have often traded off Iago and Othello during a production.

  2. Shakespeare knew of Machiavelli. He mentions him directly in Henry VI, 3. Richard's (soon to be the R III) soliloquy:

    "…I can adde Colours to the Camelion, / Change shapes with Proteus, for advantages, / And set the murtherous Machevill to Schoole."/ Can I doe this, and cannot get a Crowne? / Tut, were it farther off, Ile plucke it downe. 3.2.191-95

    The most dangerous (and, I think Dana's right, evil and scary) liar is the one who is able to lie and manipulate ("be someone else") "in plain sight". The operative backbone of the Machiavellian Philosophy: "The end justifies the means." Iago's purpose is ALL to him; achieved by whatever means necessary. "I am not what I am." 1.1.65

    And some wonder why we think Shakespeare is so important…?

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