Shakespeare's Othello - Abnormal Psychology and Iago

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Abnormal Psychology and Iago in Othello When the Bard of Avon created the evil Iago in the tragedy Othello, he entered into the area of irrational behavior and abnormal psychology. This essay will examine this branch of science as it relates to the play. David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies describes the irrationality and self-destructiveness of the ancient’s behavior: Emilia understands that jealousy is not a rational affliction but a self-induced disease of the mind. Jealous persons, she tells Desdemona, “are not ever jealous for the cause, / But jealous for they’re jealous. It is a monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” (3.4.161 – 163). Iago’s own testimonial bears this out, for his jealousy is at once wholly irrational and agonizingly self-destructive. “I do suspect the lusty Moor / Hath leaped into my seat, the thought thereof / Doth , like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my innards” (2.1.296 – 298). (223) Blanche Coles in Shakespeare’s Four Giants affirms the Bard’s commitment to abnormal psychology, and his employment of same in this play: That Shakespeare was keenly interested in the study of the abnormal mind is commonly accepted among students. [. . .] The suggestion that Iago may have been intentionally drawn as a psychopathic personality is not new. [. . .] Even a casual scrutiny of a book on case histories of psychopathic patients will find Iago peeping out from many of its pages. Still more, Iago’s name will be found appearing occasionally in bold print in books on abnormal psychology.(89-90) Evidence of his psychopathic personality is seen early in the play. He manipulates the wealthy Roderigo into awakening the senator Brabantio (“Ro... ... middle of paper ... ...hall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love, Till that a capable and wide revenge Swallow them up. (3.3) Iago is so in control of the general’s contorted mind that he specifies how the Moor should kill Desdemona: “Strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.” And the general dutifully responds, “Excellent good!” The enthusiastic answer causes one to suspect that the ancient’s psychopathology has taken possession of the Moor. WORKS CITED Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980. Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. No line nos.

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