We find in William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello an example of personified evil. He is the general’s ancient, Iago, and he wreaks havoc and destruction on all those under his influence.
Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “The Engaging Qualities of Othello” comment on how the character of Iago is the wholly expected type of villain for an Elizabethan audience:
Iago at once captures the attention of the spectator. He is the personification of the villain that Elizabethans had come to expect from Italian short stories and from Machiavellian commentary. Villains of this type, as well as those of domestic origin, had long been popular on the stage. From the days of the mystery and morality plays, the characters personifying evil invariably had gripped the attention of audiences, for iniquity always stirs more popular excitement than virtue. (127)
First of all, Iago’s very words paint him for what he is. Robert Di Yanni in “Character Revealed Through Dialogue” states that the evil antagonist reveals his character quite plainly through his speech:
Iago’s language reveals his coarseness; he crudely reduces sexual love to animal copulation. It also shows his ability to make things happen: he has infuriated Brabantio. The remainder of the scene shows the consequences of his speech, its power to inspire action. Iago is thus revealed as both an instigator and a man of crude sensibilities. (123)
David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies enlightens us on the ancient:
Iago’s machinations yield him both “sport” and “profit” (1.3.387); that is, he enjoys his evildoing, although he is also driven by a motive. This Vice-like behavior inh...
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...gton, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Di Yanni, Robert. “Character Revealed Through Dialogue.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Literature. N. p.: Random House, 1986.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
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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