30 Nov 2019

MA English Part.1 Shakespeare s' Othello as a Tragedy of Evil




Othello as Tragedy of Evil, Evil in Iago


Personification of Evil:
Contrary to Hamlet where evil is prevalent and hangs over the whole country, in Othello, it is personified in one character who wears the mask of seeming virtue. In Iago, we see evil as deception and as a direct challenge to the order and compatibility of the universe. Iago's outward brilliance and self-control is the 'reason' for Renaissance skepticism which in Shakespeare's day was challenging the great vision of harmony and order.

Iago as the Evil Force:
Despite his sanctimony and pietism, Iago reveals himself to the reader as an active force of evil right from the first scene of the play. It is Roderigo alone who is given the insight into Iago; but he is foolish and doesn't understand the inferences of Iago's plans. Iago stands for social disintegration. He is not one of the servants who get paid by their masters for their service and are loyal to them. He is a cunning one whose loyalty is a mask.
Othello as Tragedy of Evil, Evil in Iago

Iago's Egotism and self-centredness:
The supreme egotism of Iago is a demonstration of the code of 'reason' by which he lives. True human reason in terms of Renaissance Christian humaness was a reflection of the supreme wisdom of God. And it consisted in yielding one's will to the purposes of God. The reason of Iago is the sin of pride, for it denies the supremacy of God and sees man as the sole author of his destiny, able to control himself and others by the power of his mind. It is expressed in his speech to Roderigo which begins the words "Virtue! A fig! 'it is in ourselves that we are thus ." And also where he compares our bodies to gardens. In denying the purposes of the power of God, Iago strikes at the very roots of Christian Humanism. He is only a desire and lust of the blood and a permission of the will. He is conceited and excessively proud of his intelligence and wisdom which ultimately cause the fall of his personality.

Iago's Self-betrayal:
Iago's self-betrayal is quite expected and possible despite Bradley's wonder that how his supreme intellect should finally betray him into such colossal errors as his misjudging the relationship between Desdemona and Othello and the character of his own wife, Emilia. But it is in the very nature of Iago's intellect that he should be so. He observes that Desdemona's love for the Moor was only animal lust and nothing else. He can perceive only the outward appearance of Othello; he can't see the qualities for which Desdemona married him; and thus their relationship seems only a product of lust which lust must destroy. Out of Iago's failure of perception will come his own destruction, but his failure is inherent in the very 'reason' by which he lives.
Views about lago:
The audience doesn't have the same views about lago as the other characters in the play do. The audience knows him to be a Semi-devil. The very incarnation of Devil and the negation of moral values. To the audience, he is devil; but to Othello, he is 'Honest Iago.' Honest is very much like that of Claudius in Hamlet. He is put up with false appearance and it is fitting that Shakespeare should give the celebrated lines:

Who steals my purse steals trash
But he that filches from me, my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

 lago versus Othello:
lago embodies evil in the guise of good whereas in Othello himself, we have a depiction of true virtue which seems to be wearing many of the signs of evil. As in story of Cinthio, Othello's wedding with Desdemona was unnatural. Cinthio does not state the blackness of the Moor, mentioning it only once in the story. In the Renaissance, the color black was a symbol of lechery. It was so repeatedly used in the books that it was also the color of the devil whose redness is a fairly recent innovation. To the audience of Shakespeare, Othello would have all the outward appearance of the blacker devil which Amelia calls him. His marriage to Desdemona would appear as aberration in nature. lago awakes Brabantio with a narration of the marriage in these terms, punctuated by images of brute sexuality - comparing Othello to a black ram who is going to take advantage of Brabantio's white ewe.

Unnaturalness and Appearance:
The first two acts of the play these themes, the evil of the unnatural marriage and that of Iago's mask of seeming virtue. Othello has the blackness of Satan, Iago the whiteness of truth and virtue. True virtue and goodness bears the mark of evil and evil is marked with the semblance of honesty. Shakespeare assures the audience that of the falsity of these outward sign, that lago is seemingly honest and that Othello, despite his appearance, is a man of true nobility with whom Desdemona can love for his 'honours and his valiant parts'. We see his dignity before the consul where he denies the very lechery which his outward color represents. Shakespeare's careful reversal of normal appearance is so shocking that the audience must be left till incredulous, with an uncertain fear that appearance be still be truth. This fear is supported by Brabantio's warning:

Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see
She has deceived her father, and may thee

Upon this outward violation of nature, lago will work his temptation of Othello and under lago's influence; Othello will see Desdemona exactly Brabantio has see her.

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