Othello’s Diabolism

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Othello’s Diabolism

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, there is present through most of the play such an overwhelming amount of evil that the audience can scarcely remain undisturbed.

Alvin Kernan’s “Othello: an Introduction” explains the diabolism existing under the name of “honest Iago”:

“Honest Iago” conceals beneath the exterior of the plain soldier and blunt, practical man of the world a diabolism so intense as to defy rational explanation – it must be taken like lust or pride as simply a given part of human nature, an anti-life spirit which seeks the destruction of everything outside the self. (75)

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 he illustrates in the most perfect combination th...

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... 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.

-- -- --. Introduction. The Folger Library General Reader’s Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. New York: Washington Square Press, 1957.

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