Iago - Livre Or Die

Lecture 5 Othello the Moor of
Critical focus on
Act 2 Scene 3
(the Brawl Scene)
Thought for the day!!!
One theatrical critic saw the play
a dramatized bullfight in which the
hero is a noble bull,
repeatedly charging the
handkerchief in the wristy grip of
Iago, the dominant matador.
En passant Critical Significance of
Scene 2 of Act 2
We hear the proclamation of the festivities of
Othello’s nuptials;
But we are not allowed to forget
the domestic drama
While the public will have every cause to celebrate
Othello will soon have no cause for revelry
The public revelry stands as a contrast
(in antithesis) to the dark tragedy
that is about to follow
Dramatic purpose of Act 2 Scene 3
To present a portrait of Othello as commander of the
To advance Iago’s plot; and show the first victory of
evil over good
To present a picture of Iago the villain
To give another look at Desdemona
To present closer looks at Cassio Montano Roderigo
To link the brawl and the revenge plot
To provide a comic interlude for comic relief
Critically significant Concerns;
Individual and Society
Good versus Evil; Revenge
Reputation; and Responsibility
Duty and Desire
Love and Hate; Love and Lust
Conflict between Appearance and Reality
Virtue and Vice; Strength and Weakness;
Wisdom and Folly; Patience, Power, and Discipline
Wit and Witchcraft
Order and Chaos; Civilization and Barbarianism
Methods / Devices / Techniques
and the Interplay of these methods
Diction: the energy & weight of words to meaning
Antithesis: Contrast of two ideas / opposite words
Imagery, and
Poetic Language – Sound and Meaning;
Stress and Rhythm – lines are moving with varying
Dramatic Irony (Othello: ‘Iago is most honest.)
Soliloquy: Iago - p81, p99 and end of Scene
Structures - Thought Structure and Rhetoric how thoughts are structured within a speech through
different blocks of thought;
Characters are the way they speak
Distinctive Language Patterns
The language and imagery of characters of the main
 Iago adjusts his language to suit what he thinks are
the tastes and sensibilities of those he wants to
impress, cheat, or deceive;
 When he speaks to Montano he uses verse, and
high sounding metaphors ’Tis evermore the prologue
to his sleep’
 Normally marked by brevity, underlining his rational,
businesslike, pragmatic view of life
Othello’s language
Critic, Wilson Knight, comments
 Othello’s highly coloured and poetic
 Stately; rich in sound and phrase;
 Majestic and Dignified statement
 The power of his heightened, poetically
musical language defines Othello as a
soldier and lover
Othello and Iago
Iago speaks of the trade of war
Othello ‘the pride, pomp and circumstance of
glorious war;
Iago looks at the sea as an arena for
professional activity
For Othello, the sea is a mysterious, poetic
element- ‘Like to the Pontic sea, / Whose icy
current and compulsive course / Ne’er feels
retiring ebb, but keeps due on’ [3.3. 451-53]
Critically significant themes?
Like Machiavelli, Iago is an able
practitioner of the power of words
The power of language as a weapon
A most powerful weapon in the struggle for primacy
— i.e. Power and Glory over others
Human affairs are about winning and losing
Language is a fundamental weapon in human
All speech is a form of rhetoric (as it is for Iago)
The best language is the most operative
The difference between a better and worse way of
speaking is the degree of success each achieves
Moving men is the prime objective of
The things that words express are of little importance
What’s important is the success words have in
moving one’s audience in the desired direction
The strong and wily inevitably dominate the weak
and unwary
Men are moved not by abstract argument but by
“lively reasons” of their appetites and fears
Passions are what is truest about men
Human life essentially takes place on this level
The main fact of life — STRUGGLE
Othello the Commander General
Cyprus: ‘this warlike Isle’
We can understand and appreciate why
Venetians appointed him to this position
 Shows moderation, discretion, responsibility,
and caution
 Note his advice to Cassio:
“Let’s teach ourselves the honourable
Not to outsport discretion”
We have seen Othello at his height as the
lover of Desdemona (in Act 2 Scene 1);
Here in this Scene
 we see Othello at his height
as a military commander;
Order and Chaos
Othello as commander of the army, and in
charge of security, is concerned about
restoring and maintaining order in a war zone
 ‘Are we turned to Turks…
For Christian shame, put by this barbarous
 Thus sees the brawl as a serious crime of
disturbing the peace. His anger is apparent:
“My blood begins my safer guides to rule”
Ironically, turns out to be,
But like a good commander, Othello must not
make an exception of him
 Cassio is dismissed with decisive immediacy:
“Cassio, I love thee
But never more be officer of mine”
Some reflective questions re Othello:
Does Othello’s instructions to Cassio to stand
guard on a night of celebration suggest overcaution or the mark of a prudent soldier?
Does Othello show special friendship for
Cassio here?
Does this make Cassio’s fall even greater?
The Brawl Episode, and Iago
Brawl scene functions as a miniature play
within the main play
Contrived and managed by Iago
with skill and cunning
Iago - many ‘acting’ roles or parts to play,
and plays each one of them with lively
personal enjoyment arising from his
awareness of his own unique powers.
Critic Granville-Barker on Iago
the chameleon-like ability of Iago—
his remarkable adaptation to each change of
To illustrate Iago’s
chameleon-like ability:
Boon companion to Cassio, acting the good fellow
His more sinister role as he effectively tells lies to the
Cyprian Governor, Montano, about Cassio’s
Then changes from hypocrite to outright villain as he
puts Roderigo on the trail to further mischief—
‘go out and cry a mutiny!’
Next becomes a conscientious upholder of law and
order, asking all present to show due respect for
Iago then plays the part that best suits
his talents, that of the artful deceiver:
He becomes honest Iago
 Puts on a posture of being strained while
giving a seeming impartial account of what
has happened
 And impressing Othello with his ‘pained’
reaction to Cassio’s lapse—
‘Honest Iago that looks dead with
Note implicit stage directions re gesture
Critical significance of Brawl Scene
The Brawl Scene provides impressive evidence of
Iago’s successful manipulation of all those around
Roderigo, Montano, Cassio, Othello
Leaves nothing to chance here for even before the
brawl, he convinced Montano that Cassio’s infirmity
is a danger to Venetian interests
As a result, Montano feels compelled to urge Iago to
be a good soldier and tell the truth about Cassio
Iago; also
his famous Soliloquy in Scene 3
His talent for hypocrisy is again to the fore
He tells the story against Cassio with a fine
show of reluctance and misgiving (all show)
Takes on another role: one of faithful
counselor and consoler of Cassio
The real Iago only re- emerges in his great
soliloquy, “And what’s he then, that says I
play the villain /
When the advice is free I give and honest”
mind Iago’s manipulative use of words)
Interesting to watch Iago’s mind at work as he plots
and plans to bring about the disgrace of Cassio
First he must work on Cassio himself; knows his
weakness—alcohol; give him plenty and then “he’ll
be as full of quarrel and offence”
Secondly - to arrange for Roderigo and three “noble
swelling” Cypriots to be on guard duty but they must
all be “flustered with flowing cups”. A fight is bound
to follow, and from it, Cassio’s disgrace.
Advance of Iago’s plot (cont)
To ensure it works, other agents must be used
 Montano must be convinced of Cassio’s
“vice”, his “infirmity”, his weakness for alcohol
that will one day “shake this island”
Roderigo must be ordered to “go out and cry
mutiny” and bells must be rung so that all the
Cypriots are involved
Iago to Montano re Cassio’s “infirmity”
(Where Iago cleverly & convincingly
slanders Cassio)
You see this fellow that is gone before;
He is a soldier, fit to stand by Caesar
And give direction; and but see his vice:
’Tis to his virtue a just equinox,
The one as long as th’other. ’Tis pity of him.
I fear the trust Othello puts in him,
On some odd time of his infirmity,
Will shake this island.
Advance of Iago’s plot (cont)
Cassio must then be advised to win
Desdemona’s support:
 “I’ll tell you what you shall do…Our General’s
wife is now the general…Confess yourself
freely to her; importune her, she’ll help put
you in your place again”
 Recall Iago’s remark in his soliloquy: “His
soul is so enfettered to her love, / That she
may make, unmake, do what she list,”
Iago’s plan is developing—
marking the first stage of Iago’s malice
NB He has succeeded in destroying the
reputation of Cassio; Cassio’s good name;
 Now he wishes to destroy Othello and
 Out of Desdemona’s virtue and goodness he
wishes to make the “net / That shall enmesh
them all”
 But just in case there is any weakness in the
plan, Iago has two other things to do:
He must also involve his wife, Emilia:
 “My wife must move for Cassio to her
I’ll set her on”
He must also let Othello see some evidence:
 “Myself awhile to draw the Moor apart, /
And bring him jump, when he may Cassio
find, / Soliciting his wife.”
Monstrous Plan in the Making
Iago is now full of delight about his evil creation.
To put the Moor into a jealousy that judgment cannot
cure, and thus destroy his peace of mind
All these practical moves will transform his evil
design into a working reality
The method may be slow (Iago is patient); but it
always appear legitimate; never extravagant
when circumstance is added to circumstance until
the net, the web of intrigue, is woven to take Othello
into its coils.
The comic interlude
The interlude is full of comedy as well as having a
direct bearing on main events.
Iago is the life of the party
Swings into action; and skillfully turns this social
occasion of the festivities into a heavy drinking party
His ditties and jokes about English drinking habits
and about “your Dane, your German, and your
swagger-bellied Hollander” provides great comic
entertainment for a viewing audience
But aside from the comic relief it provides, it has a
direct bearing on the main events of the plot
It neatly ties in with one significant part of Iago’s plot
to engineer the getting drunk of Cassio, and
eventually his dismissal, his dishonorable discharge.
To appreciate Iago’s soliloquy near the
end of this scene,
you need to keep in mind—
Iago (to Cassio):
Come, you are too severe a moraller. As the time,
the place, and the condition of this country
stands, I could heartily wish this had not so
befallen: but since it is as it is, mend it for your
own good.
(“And what’s he then that says I play the villain”)
Commentary on Iago’s soliloquy
Alone Iago asks how anyone could see him as a
villain with ironical words
Note its frankly evil self-revelation
Shows more plainly the peculiar quality of Iago’s
This is his power to use sanity, common sense,
goodness, as weapons against themselves
And his clear, pitiless realization that he is doing so
His way as he explains is
 to employ sound advice
skillfully perverted,
 to foresee how the honesty, the kindness of
Desdemona, and
the trust and simplicity of Othello,
 can be made to destroy them.
Thus Iago’s part in the play is full of perfectly correct
and even admirable sentiments
but all used for evil purposes…
For example, at the end of this scene when he
speaks to Roderigo about “patience”
his words have the false ring of good advice
deliberately twisted towards evil ends:
“How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?”
Most of all, we note Iago’s
Machiavellian use of language
Language was Machiavelli’s weapon
Similarly, Iago’s power –
 masterful manipulation of words; a warrior of
 Words carefully chosen, combined, and
strategically structured (Thought Structure)
 to achieve their maximum effect namely to
dominate, manipulate, and control through
speech that creates disorder.
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