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Shakespeare Filler Othello

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Iago suffers from what Bloom calls an "exaltation of the will...emanat[ing] from an ontological lack so great that no human emotion possibly could fill it." (456) citing Iago's "Virtue speech" (I.iii.320-33) as the prime example of this ontological lack. He calls this passage the "poetic center" of the entire play, yet quickly passes on to the question of whther or not Othello and Desdemona have consemmated their marriage. As an aside, I feel that Shakespeare left this point purposefully ambiguous. Lest I get caught up in the same debate Bloom spends the next five pages discussing, let us examine his points about the virtue speech a little more thuroughly. "'Virtue,'" Bloom writes, "here means something like 'manly strength.'" (456) Indeed the word itself comes from the latin virtutem, from which we also get our word virility, all emanating from the latin root vir meaning man. The concept being described is a classical one, that of arete, or courage. Being described as a Christian attribute in 2 Peter 1:5, it is often misperceived as an inherently good, peaceful courage in the face of evil. Yet to the classical mind, arete was never without struggle and defeat. It implies strife and conflict. It is not however a fault but the very definition of virtue; for in it we bow our wills before duty. Shakespeare calling on this concept of virtue gives us Iago, a man devoid of virtutem yet full of voluntas, Augustine's word for will. "The power and corrigible authority lies in our wills." (I.iii.325-6) Iago reverses it making virtue the mere giving into "unbitted lusts." In Iago's mind, love is a weakness, and reason is king. While reading this it is easy for a modern reader to see the parallels between this and almost every speech Milton's Satan gives. "Knowledge forbidden? suspicious, reasonless." As such, Shakespeare sets the standard for the ultimate willful person, followed by Milton's Satan, London's Wolf Larsen and most recently by Polihuinik's Tyler Durden. The interesting thing is that in almost every incarnation, Iago is portrayed as evil. Whether we like it or not, we all know that the will is not king. We must live for something else.


Copyright (c) 2004 Jason Helms.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "
GNU Free Documentation License".

Copyright (c) 2004 Jason Helms.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "
GNU Free Documentation License".