Iago the Essayist

Belsey Catherine

in Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633012
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652235 | DOI:
Iago the Essayist

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This chapter approaches Othello experimentally from a formal perspective to assess the part played by Iago's mode of address in this tragedy of racial hatred. Most evidently, his dry, low-key style stands in direct contrast to the passionate poetry that defines the hero. Othello defines his passion in the poetry that characterises all Shakespeare's tragic heroes and seems to invite the sympathy of the audience, whatever the measure of the protagonist's failures of insight or of ethics. Iago aligns himself with the manner of the essayists: terse, prosaic, forthright. His adoption of the dispassionate manner of the essayists is more than a charade, a pose designed to fool the people he plans to destroy. Shakespeare's tragedy of love and nihilism shows a contention of genres, as well as passions, in the poetic hero's contest with an essayist who cloaks racial hatred in casual indifference.

Keywords: Othello; Iago; racial hatred; Shakespeare; essayists; love; nihilism

Chapter.  6815 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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