Motiveless Malignity and O Essay

Motiveless Malignity and O Essay

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In his review of Tim Blake Nelson’s O, Patrick Finn criticizes the modern adaptation of Othello for its superficiality saying, “in this Othello, true anger comes from the steroids and cocaine that rich kids take to enhance performance,” and “malignity, in this sense, is no longer motiveless, but is instead the result of bad parenting” (85). The film departs from its source material by attempting to explain Hugo’s duplicity through a desperate, if childish, need for attention. As a result, the film loses the ambiguity and impact of Iago’s “motiveless malignity,” and the departure has far-reaching effects on the overarching message of the film.

Iago gives many reasons for his duplicitous actions throughout Othello. In the opening scene he tells Roderigo that although three great men of the city told Othello to name Iago as his lieutenant, Othello instead chose Cassio, who Iago describes as a man “that never set a squadron in the field/ Nor the division of a battle knows/ More than a spinster – unless the bookish theoric,/ Wherein the togaed consuls can propose/ As masterly as he” (I.i 23-27). This jealousy after being passed up for promotion in favor of Cassio is most similar to the reasons given for Hugo’s actions in O, but it is expanded in the film to include another character who overlooks Hugo: Hugo’s father. Iago has no family other than his wife, yet Hugo is given a basketball coach for a father to reinforce that jealousy is the basis for Hugo’s actions. Furthermore, Hugo’s father is also filling the role of the Duke, yet Iago and the Duke have no real relationship in the play. The film opens with Hugo talking over almost absurd footage of doves saying:
All my life I always wanted to fly. I always wanted to live like a h...


... middle of paper ...


...owever, he is prompted by an unrequited love for Othello, not Desdemona.
Finally, Iago may simply be a villain at heart and have no real motivation for his scheme. In the opening scene, Brabantio tells him, “Thou art a villain” to which Iago replies, “You are – a senator” (I.i 120, 121). Iago may intend to insult Brabantio by calling him a senator, or he may consider villainy his job in the same way being a senator is Brabantio’s vocation. In the final scene Othello says, “I look down toward [Iago’s] feet; but that’s a fable” (V.ii 294). Othello is comparing Iago to the devil but notes that he doesn’t have cloven hooves. In this way, Iago may just be a vessel of evil without any real motivation for his villainy.



Works Cited

Finn, Patrick. "O." Film & History 32.1 (2002): 84-85. Web. 4 Apr 2011.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York: Bantam Books, 1988. Print.

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Motiveless Malignity and O Essay

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