Villains, Sin, and Sex in Shakespeare's Othello and King Lear Essays

Villains, Sin, and Sex in Shakespeare's Othello and King Lear Essays

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Villains, Sin, and Sex in Othello and King Lear

   Many of Shakespeare plays are littered with crude and graphic sexual references, jests, and insults. But there is one type of character present throughout Shakespeare's plays that twist the sexual imagery and repartee, and that is the villain. There is a deeply rooted combination between sex and evil.  This essay will develop this idea in depth by focusing on Iago of Othello and Edmund of King Lear.


  Iago is probably viewed as one of Shakespeare's greatest villains. He's calm, cool, collected, and simply put: brilliant. He manipulates Othello, the moor's lieutenant Cassio, Desdemona's scorned suitor Roderigo, her father Brabantio, and his own wife Emilia with such masterful skill and ease, that there is no stopping him until it's too late. But what is this great skill that he wields at his victims? What hideous power can Iago possibly posses in order to pull the great puppeteer's strings? It's sex.


  While Iago is not a sexual being per say, he certainly wields a sexually edged blade when he begins to attack his victims. In the grand scheme of things, he is angry that Othello has passed him over for the rank of lieutenant, and Iago wants his revenge. In order to complete his vendetta against the moor, he uses a sexually charged scheme that carefully embroils others to unwittingly aid him in his goal. In the very first scene of the play, Iago pulls in the jilted suitor Roderigo to begin his revenge. The moor has secretly married Desdemona, and now Iago plans to begin his downfall by informing her father. Roderigo is coerced into this plot by his own lust for the senator's daughter, which Iago exploits to his fullest capabilities. While trying to rouse Br...

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...akespeare s Philosophical Patterns. London: Mass Peter   Smith, 1968.  

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Schlegel, August Wilhelm.  Criticism on Shakespeare s Tragedies . A Course    of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. London: AMS Press, Inc., 1965.  

Shakespeare, William. King Lear.  Eric A., McCann, ed. Harcourt Brace Jovanovick, Canada Inc., Canada. 1998

Snyder, Susan. "Beyond the Comedy: Othello" Modern Critical Interpretations, Othello Ed. Harold Bloom, Pub. Chelsea House New Haven CT 1987. (page 23-37)

Norman Sanders, ed. Othello. Cambridge: New York, 1995: 12.

J. Adelman. "Iago's Alter Ego: Race as Projection in Othello," Shakespeare Quarterly v48 Summer 1997: 130.

Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1994.

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