The Nature of Evil

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Cheyenne Hosein
May 3, 2010
McDaniel
Evil within Shakespeare’s Characters
“As before, what is so mind-boggling is not just the horrific aggression of man against man but the fact of offenders not easily being demonized into new versions of Iago or Macbeth” (Yu, 22). Yu talks about “original sin being resurrected” and going back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Yu also talks about Hitler and the holocaust and that being pure evil. For Hitler to kill millions of Jews because they were different and consider not humans was morally wrong. Iago, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth all show that they have evil within them. Sin originated from Adam and Eve’s mistake of eating the apple from the forbidden tree. “As told by the Bible, moral evil emanates from the wrongdoing of Adam.” (23). Humanity is to suffer from their mistake but people can repent for their sins. Shakespeare’s characters do not have a sense of redemption or guilt. That’s when the question of evil comes into play. Iago uses his language to manipulate Othello and other characters, Macbeth kills for a position of power and Lady Macbeth would do anything to get Macbeth as king. These are acts of evil but are they really evil? Are Macbeth and Lady Macbeths actions worse than Iagos? To be evil one must think of the act, take pleasure in committing the act and feels no guilt or emotions to what he/she is doing. Iago is different from Macbeth and Lady Macbeth for the reason that he does not feel any sort of guilt or emotion except anger and revenge. The selfishness of these characters is too much for them and all the other characters to handle. What is “the nature of evil”? Evil is played around in Shakespeare’s plays with many of his characters. For example, King Lear banishes Cordeila, his own daughter, because she speaks the truth to him. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear so he banishes her. He does feel guilty and comes to his senses at the end but it is too late. Richard II banishes Henry because of a murder that was unsolved. Richard steals the crown from Henry and his people don’t like him. He loses the people and gives the kingdom back to Henry. He loses everything because of power, just as other characters have. To be evil one must think of the act, take pleasure in committing the act and feels no guilt or emotions to what he/she is doing. At the time, none of these character felt any guilt until they lost everything. That show the evil within them and just as Adam and Eve got to repent, so did these characters. Some characters like, Iago, don’t ever repent. Sin originated from Adam and Eve and an evil snake that tempts them. The snake can represents Iago and how he used his language against people. Evil is always dates back to original sin and Shakespeare plays it very well into his tragedies. Humanity is to repent for Adam and Eve’s sin and that’s how evil is banished but when you don’t, you are a sinner and evil. Iago, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have all the characteristics of an evil person but all three are different types of evil. Iago is seen as “honest” to Othello’s eyes until the very end of the play. “Oh, you are well tuned now!/ But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music,/ As honest as I am” (ii.i.202- 204). Iago is being sarcastic here and he knows that he can use the honesty card to trick everyone. He uses his language to plant seeds into the minds of the other characters. “I am not what I am.” (I.i.67) is the most famous line of Iagos. He comes out and admits it but Roderigo thinks nothing of because he is part of Iagos plans. The way he manipulates every character is genius and madness combine. His language is his power of evil. “The Humiliation of Iago” shows that his language was his downfall in the end. The one thing he had against everyone else was used against him. “That Iago is resentfully aware of the failure of his language to equal Cassio’s and Othello’s is evident from his reaction after the exchange with Desdemona ends.”...
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