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Published: 23-12-2019

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Iago's Metadrama: Villain, Director, Playwright

In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the deceptive Iago weaves an intricate internet of lies with which he enmeshes Othello alongside his a lot of other victims. His manipulation of other characters, machinations that serve as the driving force behind the plot, and sly staging of various scenes in the play not only establish him as the play’s beguiling villain, but also reveal that he performs the roles of the play’s surrogate playwright, director, and prompter. Whereas Shakespeare’s use of theatrical language highlights Iago’s multiple theatrical roles and influence in the play, the resulting dramatic self-reference offers him with an avenue by which he can step outdoors the play’s realm and deceive the audience just as he dupes Othello, Cassio, and himself as a result, Iago reaffirms himself as the play’s villain. At the identical time, it undermines the appearance of power that Iago possesses due to the fact it reinforces that Iago is merely one more fictional character in the play that lacks the volition to be capable to manage his future just like all the other characters. A character who rebels against authority, Iago refuses to subjugate himself to another and tries, even when all hope is lost, to reassert his power by way of silence.

Frequently in the play, Iago employs the language characteristic of a playwright as he plots out what will take place subsequent in the play’s action of events. As he stands alone in front of the Cyprian castle, Iago soliloquizes: “Now, ‘mongst this flock of drunkards / Am I to place our Cassio in some action / That could offend the isle” (II.iii.55-57). Because “action” can refer to an thrilling flurry of events, Iago’s statement can imply that he will set Cassio up so that a lively, action-packed scene will ensue nevertheless, “action” can also refer to the unfolding events of a drama. That Iago particularly states that he will “put… Cassio in some action,” coupled with his uncanny knowledge that he is a character in a play and the fact that only the playwright has the privilege of contriving the plot and placing characters in it, suggests that he is a surrogate playwright. Moreover, Iago scripts out future scenes throughout the play and is in a position to foretell future events and to predict the reactions of the other characters with an uncanny accuracy and self-assurance. For example, Iago plans what will occur when he will query Cassio about Bianca: “As he [Cassio] shall smile, Othello shall go mad, / And his unbookish jealousy have to conster / Poor Cassio’s smiles, gestures, and light behaviors / Quite in the wrong” (IV.i.100-103). “Shall” expresses inevitability and thereby conveys Iago’s confidence in his prediction, making it unlikely that this is merely a conjecture by one of the characters in the play of how the plot will unfold. His capability to predict future events and the assurance with which he tends to make these predictions suggest that he is a surrogate writer of the play, for only the playwright has the understanding of what will occur in the future. Given that one particular can interpret “shall” as a directive as nicely, it might be somewhat strange that Iago utilizes the word whilst he speaks to himself, but with this word, Iago plots out his own actions which will establish the course of future events. His predictions have such accuracy that 1 can use them as a script of what will take place in the scenes that will adhere to. As a result, his language, capability to foretell events confidently, and machinations that drive the plot forward all function to depict Iago as a surrogate playwright.

Even as he directs the actions of the other characters, the other characters also direct him, as a result placing him in a position where he plays both the element of an actor and director at the exact same time. When Desdemona and Cassio talk with each other aboard the ship on the way to Cyprus, Iago watches them and remarks: “now once more you are most apt / to play the sir in. Very very good! well kissed! and superb / Courtesy! ‘Tis so, certainly. But once more your fingers to your / lips? Would they have been clyster pipes for your sake!” (II.i.173-176). In the play that he has planned out in his thoughts, Iago has cast Cassio – though Cassio does not know it – as Desdemona’s courtier and secret lover with whom she is having an affair. Praising and criticizing Cassio’s actions as if he were an actor in his play, Iago carefully observes the scene and comments as a director supervising rehearsals would. Nevertheless, it is Cassio’s initial action of taking Desdemona by the palm that initiates Iago’s commentary hence, in a way, Cassio ironically directs Iago’s actions even as Iago directs his. For that reason, as he casts people in components of his play and supervises rehearsals, Iago simultaneously plays both the portion of the director and actor.

Helping other actors with their roles, Iago also acts as a surrogate prompter. When Barbantio orders the attendants to seize Othello and to get him below their control through force if essential, Othello remarks: “Were it my cue to fight, I need to have recognized it / Without a prompter,” thereby informing Barbantio that he will not resist since it is not the time for him to fight in the play (I.ii.83-84). It is considerable that he specifies that he does not require a cue to fight in particular, for this shows that he knows his role as a military basic in reality, he is so comfortable with it that he is confident that he does not need the help of a prompter to play the component flawlessly. The use of theatre language makes the drama briefly self-referential to contact consideration to the truth that every play has a prompter, helping a single to recognize that Iago has slipped into this role, which he does early on. In contrast to the self-assurance he had in his acting capacity as a military common, Othello finds himself at a loss for what action to take next following he finds himself in the part of the envious husband. Right after forcing Othello into the portion of the jealous, suspicious husband by driving him to question Desdemona’s fidelity, Iago requires on the duty of a surrogate prompter now that Othello needs assistance with his part, for only an actor who demands support would want the help of a prompter. For instance, when Othello nonetheless inquiries Desdemona’s faithfulness, Iago urges him to “Look to your wife observe her well with Cassio / Wear your eyes thus, not jealous nor secure” (III.iii.197-198). With his cues to “look” and “observe,” Iago not only advises the audience, but he also instructs Othello to assume the function of the audience, even modeling how he must act. By introducing doubt in Othello’s thoughts and then suggesting and demonstrating how he ought to act, Iago incites Othello to act as a jealous husband would just as a prompter would help an actor to discover his lines and carry out his component effectively. Iago requires on this part as surrogate prompter to get himself into a position whereby he can manipulate the actions and minds of other folks, major them to their downfall by means of deception below the guise of friendship and concern.

Shakespeare uses theatrical language not only to highlight Iago’s a number of theatrical roles, but also to thereby convey the helplessness of the characters that Iago manipulates. In act I, scene 1, Iago says to Roderigo, “I am not what I am” (64). This phrase resounds strongly of God’s description of himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” in Exodus 3:13 of The Bible, except that Iago substitutes “what” in the location of “who.” Interestingly, Iago’s statement may look awkward because “who” – not “what” – is the suitable pronoun 1 ought to use to describe a individual nonetheless, this pronoun substitution may be deliberate, for with this modification, Iago expresses that he is not merely a character and asserts that he exists beyond the play. The way in which Iago phrases this self-description portrays him as a sort of anti-God who has the opposite effect that a dues ex machina does. Just as God controls the planet, Iago similarly controls the events and characters of the play. Iago’s continuous promptings of how the characters ought to act, his scripting and staging of scenes but to come, and comments about the actions of the other characters foster a weird sense that the other characters in the play are fictional characters in Iago’s play. This impact portrays the actors’ loss of personal willpower and inability to handle what will come about to them during the course of the play, for Iago’s psychological and physical manipulation of them controls their actions. In addition, that Iago depicts himself as godlike further emphasizes their vulnerability to his whims. Ludovico’s description of Othello in the last scene of Act V demonstrates the general’s helplessness when he states: “O thou Othello that was after so very good, / Fall’n in the practice of a damned slave, / What shall be stated to thee?” (291-293). That Ludovico describes Iago as possessing fallen into a performance of a slave implies that Othello assumed that role involuntarily and lacked the agency to be able to control the events about himself. Moreover, that Roderigo describes Othello as a slave brings into question who the master is in this case, it is Iago. This connection between master and slave also raises an interesting parallel relationship amongst an actor and director, for both actor and slave are similarly subservient to a dominating director or master. Thus, since the language of the theatre shows how Iago controls the production of the play, it depicts the passivity and helplessness of the characters given that Iago controls their thoughts, action, and fate.

Whilst his machinations and actions make it simple for the audience to mark him the villain of the play, Iago utilizes theatrical language to challenge their characterization of him. Following coaching Cassio on how to get back into Othello’s excellent graces, Iago soliloquizes: “And what’s he then that says I play the villain, / When this advice is cost-free I give and sincere, / Probal to considering, and indeed the course / To win the Moor once again?” (II.iii.324-327). There is an ambiguity with regards to to whom Iago refers with the pronoun “he.” At this point in the play, none of the characters suspects Iago of his deceitful plotting the character who knows the most about Iago’s true intentions and nature is Roderigo, but at this point, even he trusts Iago to support him win Desdemona for his personal, not realizing that Iago will kill him in the finish. Although this soliloquy may merely be a rhetorical statement, Iago can be addressing the 1 group of folks who know of his deceit – the audience. All through the play, Iago shares his treacherous plans in soliloquies and hence reveals his genuinely evil nature to the audience. By demonstrating awareness that he is performing a part in a play, he steps out of the play’s realm and calls interest to the play’s artificiality just for a moment so that he can address the audience and challenge their characterization of him as the villain with an unnerving accuracy as he uncannily presumes that they have completed so, which they have.

Stepping out of the play, Iago utilizes this chance to manipulate the audience’s thoughts just as he manipulates the thoughts and actions of the characters in the play. Still addressing the audience, Iago continues with the earlier soliloquy: “How am I then a villain / To counsel Cassio to this parallel course, / Straight to his good?” (II.iii.336-338). By bringing up the valid claim that he is performing a good deed by advising Cassio on how to get what he desires, Iago forces the audience to question their designation of him as the play’s villain. With this statement, Iago leads the audience to play with the notion that he may possibly not be the villain, since what he says is true. Nonetheless, this uncertainty only lasts for a moment, for he continues: “Divinity of hell! / When devils with the blackest sins place on, / They do suggest with heavenly shows, / As I do now” (II.iii.338-340). By directing the ending line “As I do now” to the audience, Iago reveals that he has just tricked the audience in the exact same manner that devils do and a lot more importantly, just as he dupes his victims in the play, thereby reaffirming the audience’s judgment of him as the villain. In addition, the duped audience despises Iago even much more for his lack of shame and awareness of his evil nature. In this manner, Iago’s use of theatre language gives him an chance to address the audience and manipulate their thoughts as he does his victims in the play so that his villainy extends beyond the play’s realm.

As this scene empowers Iago with the ability to extend his realm of deceit, it also strips him of energy because it calls attention to the fact that he as well is merely one more one of the play’s fictional characters. By the end of his soliloquy, Iago has led the audience to the conclusion that he does indeed “play the villain” in the play by duping them as nicely (II.iii.324). By reinforcing his audience’s characterization of him as the villain, Iago inadvertently emphasizes that he plays a function in the play Othello, and hence, he is a fictional character. Simply because fictional characters have a determined fate considering that the playwright and his script have already determined their future, they lack manage of their future. No matter how cunning and effective Iago may possibly appear to be, Iago will always finish up in the hands of the authorities at the finish of every single production of the play. Therefore, while the theatrical language gives Iago a likelihood to extend his reign of terror to the audience, it simultaneously weakens the audience’s perception of him as wielding so significantly power, for it reminds them that he is merely a fictional character like the other characters and hence has no much more manage than they do over his future.

When Iago fails in his try to control the other characters with his speech, he turns to action and then to silence. When Emilia very first begins to reveal Iago’s deceit, Iago orders her to “charm…[her] tongue,” but when she fails to heed his command, he alters his order, telling her rather: “I charge you get you home” (V.ii.184, 195). With the verb “charge,” Iago not only imposes a activity upon her, but he also draws upon his authority as her husband as he commands her. As Emilia challenges his authority by disregarding his directions, Iago draws his sword and stabs her, thereby reasserting his energy over her. Shortly thereafter, Othello tells Cassio to demand Iago to explain why he plotted against him, and Iago answers: “Demand me practically nothing. What you know, you know. / From this time forth I in no way will speak word” (V.ii.303-304). A demand calls for yet another to do anything based upon authority and thereby implies that one wields power over the other. Iago refuses to comply with the demand not only because he wants to frustrate their attempts in figuring out the truth, but also far more importantly, he refuses to acknowledge that they manage him. His silence is his last try to try to reestablish his energy, although it is a feeble attempt considering that he is now physically below their control. Therefore, Iago’s silence shows his refusal to let anyone subjugate him, even even though it is clear that he no longer wields any power more than the other characters or himself.

Even though Iago is clearly the villain of the play based upon his treachery and deceit, metadrama complicates this characterization by not only difficult and reaffirming this designation, but also by amplifying and diminishing the appearance of Iago’s possession of power. He might be Othello’s servant, but his theatrical functions in the play as director, prompter, and playwright distance him from the plot and thereby give him an apparent handle over the other characters. Even so, while his theatrical roles delude him into pondering that he is in control, they also reveal that the other characters influence and direct his actions just as he directs them. The believed of living below subjugation repulses Iago so a lot that he expresses his refusal to submit to the authorities by taking an oath of silence even though there is no hope of escaping their manage. He ironically does not comprehend that his character exists throughout the play beneath the direction of other people, such as the other characters in the play and Shakespeare himself. It is feasible for Iago to live under authority – even although he could not consider so – just as lengthy as he is not aware of it. Sadly, his really nature as a fictitious character automatically locations him beneath the control of the playwright as a result, his hatred of authority dooms him to a life of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Functions Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice. The Full Pelican Shakespeare. Ed. Stephan Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller. New York: Penguin Group, 2002. 1402-1444.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986.
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