Essay on The Incomparable Evil in Shakespeare's Othello

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The Incomparable Evil in Shakespeare's Othello

Shakespeare?s tragic drama Othello disturbs audiences because of the intense, diabolical evil involved in the plot development. Let?s explore the evil in the play, especially in the character of Iago.

In his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, A. C. Bradley gives an in-depth analysis of the brand of evil which the ancient personifies:

Iago stands supreme among Shakespeare?s evil characters because the greatest intensity and subtlety of imagination have gone to his making, and because he illustrates in the most perfect combination the two facts concerning evil which seem to have impressed Shakespeare most. The first of these is the fact that
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Robert B. Heilman unveils the evil awaiting the reader in Othello:

Reason as an ally of evil is a subject to which Shakespeare keeps returning, as if fascinated, but in different thematic forms as he explores different counter-forces. ]. . .] Although Iago, as we saw, does not take seriously the ennobling power of love, he does not fail to let us know what he does take seriously. When, in his fake oath of loyalty to "wrong'd Othello," he vows "The execution of his wit, hands, heart" (III.3.466), Iago's words give a clue to his truth: his heart is his malice, his hands literally wound Cassio and kill Roderigo, and his wit is the genius that creates all the strategy. (338)

By an extraordinary composition of character Shakespeare has made Iago, literally or symbolically, share in all these modes of evil. And in Iago he has dramatized Dante?s summary analysis: ?For where the instrument of the mind is joined to evil will and potency, men can make no defense against it.? But he has also dramatized the hidden springs of evil action, the urgency and passion and immediacy of it. He contemplates too the evildoer?s ?potency? and man?s defenselessness: but these he interprets tragically by making them, not absolute, but partly dependent on the flaws or desire of the victims themselves. (343)

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

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