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Othello’s Evil Character Essay

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Othello’s Evil Character  

 
    William Shakespeare’s Othello gives the audience a full measure or dose of evil, mostly in the person of the sinister Iago, whose evil influence penetrates the lives of the victims around him.

 

In The Riverside Shakespeare Frank Kermode explains the type of evil peculiar to the ancient:

 

Over the ancient figure of the Vice – a familiar shape for abstract evil – Iago wears the garb of a modern devil. Iago’s naturalist ethic, as expounded to Roderigo at the close of Act I, is a wicked man’s version of Montaigne, an instance of the way in which men convert to evil the precepts of a common sense supported by no act of faith. (1200)

 

Even the imagery in the drama has its evil aspect. Kenneth Muir, in the Introduction to William Shakespeare: Othello,  explains the instances of diabolic imagery in the play as they relate to the infecting of the Moor by the ancient:

 

The same transference from Iago to Othello may be observed in what S. L. Bethell called diabolic imagery. He estimated that of the 64 images relating to hell and damnation – many of them are allusions rather than strict images – Iago has 18 and Othello 26. But 14 of Iago’s are used in the first two Acts, and 25 of Othello's in the last three. The theme of hell originates with Iago and is transferred to Othello only when Iago has succeeded in infecting the Moor with his jealousy. (22)

 

In his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, A. C. Bradley gives an in-depth analysis of the brand of evil which the ancient personifies:

 

Iago stands supreme among Shakespeare’s evil characters because the greatest intensity and subtlety of imagination have gone to his making, and because ...


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...enneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.

 

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

 

Wayne, Valerie. “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello.” The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ed Valerie Wayne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

 

Wilson, H. S. On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1957.

 

Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.


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