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The Art of Villainy in Shakespeare's play

By nessab1214 Dec 03, 2013 1464 Words
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3 May 2013

Edmund Vs. Iago: A Comparitive Analysis Of Shakespeare's Villains VILLAINY OF EDMUND AND LAGO IN SHAKESPEAREAN PLAYS
The plots of all Shakespearean tragedies follow a similar sequence of events. Typically Conflicts arise due to twist of events that set the two characters that had initially enjoyed a good relationship with each other on opposing ends. First it begins with the Exposition stage; this is where the reader is introduced to the setting under which the conflict arises, the characters involved and the state of issues at the time. The next stage is the build-up of events that will later culminate into the conflict. Here the conflict develops and grows. The final stage entails the climax of all events that emerge to turn the already matured conflict into a catastrophe (Bradley 41-43). For instance it is in the climax of the King Lear’s play that the spiteful son of Gloucester, Edgar kills his illegitimate brother in cold blood. Everything is left in chaos as the king dies and the remnants of the lost war, Albany, Edgar and Kent are left to deal with the pain and loss of their loved one.

Taking on their differences, Shakespeare paints the two characters as utterly villain not only in their actions but in their words too. Imagery and metaphors used in the plays are clear evidence of the depth of feeling and emotions involved.

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Edmund is the bustard son of Gloucester. The latter goes ahead to openly to declare the same in his statements when introducing his son to a friend "Though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was called for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged " (1.i. 21-24). Shakespeare hints that the mother of Edmund must have been a whore and her beautiful features might have been transferred to her bustard son. Clearly Gloucester did not like the young man at all. The playwright asserts that Edmund wasn’t such a likeable character because even his own father insulted him! His hatred for the his bigger brother was based on the fact that the elder brother would inherited everything their father and he would get nothing second born son in the family. That made him justify his villainy actions as he quotes ‘’The curiosity of nations to deprive me, For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines .Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?’ (1.ii. 03-05).

On the other hand, lago is a trusted soldier under Othello. The two have a mutual relationship until the former is bypassed in the award of a promotion which is given to Michael Cassio by Othello. He utters out his hatred to Roderigo against the two although not much to Cassio as Othello in his sentiments ‘’One Michael Cassio, a Florentine (A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife), That never set a squadron in the field But he, sir, had th' election ...’’ (1.i. 20-22).

Themes relating Edmund and Lago
1. Motives
Lago’s quest for revenge and treachery is instigated by the fact that although he was most preferred as the new lieutenant, Cassio is given the position instead. This at first is the main reason why he plans to see Othello suffer. He is so spiteful as he refers to Othello as a “Barbary horse,” and “old black ram,” Initially as his plans fail to materialise and some are thwarted, his grip momentarily loosens only to revert and tighten even more. His motives

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vary as the plot unveils. At an instance his vengeful desire against Othello is fuelled by the award of a promotion to another yet at another instant he claims to suspect an affair between the latter and his wife Emilia. This is evident in his statement ‘’ ... I hate the Moor; and it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets’ (1.iii. 387)’. It is clearly indicated that lago hates Othello because the latter is more honourable and has acquired a young and beautiful young lady, Desdemona to wife. We do not know the reason behind his utterance as he declares’’ It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor. She must change for youth. When she is sated with his body, she will find the error of her choice.’’ Shakespeare leaves our minds to wonder and speculate about the same.

The motive behind the shameful acts of Edmund is created by the constant abuse by his father and the fact that he is an illegitimate son. His only joy is to see all that hurt him, his abusive father and step brother experience pain and suffering. He sets their father against Edgar his elder son by deceiving him that the latter is planning to kill the older man. In retaliation, Gloucester sets to kill his son thus Edgar has to flee form home and disguises himself as a beggar in Act 2 Scene 1. Shakespeare leaves room for imagination as pertaining to the reasoning behind Edmund claim “Yet Edmund was beloved" as he overlooks the deceased bodies of Goneril and Regan (5. iii. 15).

The play Othello begins with a mutual relationship between Othello and Lago. As the plot unveils, the character of lago is unveiled as a deceitful person with hidden motives. He has indeed perfected the art of devilish such that even when his plans are derailed, he is careful enough to twist his schemes to fit the planned end. He plans to ruin the marriage between Othello and his wife Desdemona. In a bid to stop the consummation ceremony from taking place, Lago goes ahead to instigate Cassio to pick a fight with Roderigo and when Governor Montano intervene, he gets stabbed in the process. It is Lago who sends Roderigo to raise

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alarm concerning the chaos thus disrupting the already started ceremony. He gets so close to Othello without him suspecting of his motive and actually enjoys seeing him suffer. He taunts him and derives joy seeing him get tormented by jealousy by inciting Othello to think that his wife is cheating on him. He actually make the latter believe that his Wife Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio. Lago is so excited to receive Othello’s handkerchief that his wife Emilia had collected from the former’s house. Although Emilia doesn’t the point of ecstasy, Lago is overjoyed by the new twist of events, he immediately hatches a plan meant to drain Othello’s happiness and inflict suffering. He goes ahead to plant evidence in Cassio’s room in order to implicate him in his claim of Desdemona’s infidelity (Amanda). Shakespeare paints Edmund as a vile person and on many occasions in the play refers to him as bastardy and a ‘’bustard’. Furthermore Shakespeare creates a jerk out of him to fit the description of his character as depicted by his own father. He is a scamp and amazes the audience that such a person would still have the heart to feel remorseful upon the death of his enemies. After the demise of Goneril and Regan, he sorrowfully says “Some good I mean to do, despite of my own nature,” (3.iv.12). As Shakespeare paints it, we wonder if there is a little bit of humanity left in him to utter such a statement. His attempts to save Cordelia are unclear in reflection of his vile self. It is by deceitfulness of Edmund that sets Gloucester against his son Edgar after reading a letter written by the former that compromises the character of the elder brother. The physical blindness inflicted upon Gloucester by Cornwall is metaphorically related to the blinding of the former by Edmund against his elder brother. Discussing the similarities between the two villains Edmund and Lago, they both were skilled soldiers during their time. When scene changes from the urban Venice to the island of Cyprus, the people are protected by the military in which lago is a soldier under Othello (Canning). Edmund with the English army defeats Cordelia commander of the French army and captures him and his wife, Lear. He deeply filled with remorse after the killing of

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Cordelia and Lear by his soldiers as he declares that he tried every attempt to save them but couldn’t.
Works Cited
Amanda Mabillard, 05/09/2010 acessed from Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. October 30, 2005 [EBo ok #16966]. Accessed from Pdf Canning, Albert Stratford George. Shakespeare Studied in Six Plays . London: T. F. Unwin, 1907. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. Accessed on 2nd may 2013 < >.

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