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Iago: A Genuine Precursor to Milton’s Satan?
It has been claimed that Milton based Satan from Paradise Regained off of Shakespeare’s Iago, from Othello. Although I agree that these characters are based off of a similar personality type, I believe that they tempt their victims with different rhetorical strategies: Satan deconstructs his enemy’s arguments while Iago constructs true temptations to look like positives. I am hoping to choose two speeches, one from Othello and one from Paradise Regained, that portray the true characters of Iago and Satan, then pair that speech with an image or video that portrays their true character. By looking at these artistic renditions, I will compare and contrast the rhetoric of each villain and how their arguments develop as their characters develop.
· Canning, Albert Stratford George. Shakespeare Studied in Six Plays. London: T. F. Unwin, 1907. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. 16 Nov. 2016. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/othello/othellovillain.html >.
o “In Rossini's musical version of the terrible scene between Othello and his deceiver, the surprise and anxiety of the former and the subtle insinuations of the latter finally lead to a burst of fury, in which the feelings of the enraged dupe and the triumph of the vindictive Iago are vocally expressed with the full genius of the great composer. In Verdi's duet describing the same passage, the instrumental accompaniment expresses perhaps more than the voices the vehemence and passion of the scene, ending with the almost realistic sound of a fatal stab dealt by a murderous hand. Evidently Rossini and Verdi alike succeeded through their different styles in expressing the true meaning of the terrible scene by the attractive medium of their delightful art.”
· Hytner, Nicholas. "Nicholas Hytner: With Shakespeare, the Play Is Just a Starting Point." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/apr/12/nicholas-hytner-shakespeare-play>.
o It has often been noted that Iago's "motiveless malignancy" in fact comes, in his soliloquies, with a superfluity of motives, as if he himself has difficulty locating the source of his depravity. What Shakespeare has done, of course, is to pay his fellow actor the compliment of trusting him to complete Iago for himself. He provides the actor with a solid enough starting point: Iago is consumed by the promotion of Cassio. But thereafter, the play works overtime not to lock Iago down, and seems to invite the actor to allow himself to be surprised by what happens to Iago: a man driven by envy and hatred, who isn't fully in control of what happens next (as none of us is), to whom the action of the play occurs spontaneously – as life happens to all of us.
· Morris, Sylvia. "Othello, Iago and the Search for Character." The Shakespeare Blog. The Shakespeare Blog, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <http://theshakespeareblog.com/2013/04/othello-iago-and-the-search-for-character/>.
o “In his essay Michael Shurgot examines the great temptation scene, Act 3 Scene 3, concentrating on the dangerous section where Iago vividly describes Cassio’s dream. “The striking theatrical paradox of this scene [is that] the more deeply felt and convincingly performed the actor’s impersonation of Iago’s sexual longings, the more incredulous will be Othello’s failure to penetrate Iago’s mask; and the greater the risk that this segment of [the scene] will dissolve into a grotesque parody of Othello’s temptation and fall.””
· Thaler, Alwin. “The Shakespearian Element in Milton.” PMLA, vol. 40, no. 3, 1925, pp. 645–691. www.jstor.org/stable/457565.
o Similarities between Satan in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained to Iago (659).
o Othello, II, I, 201-202 vs. P.L. IV, 505-35
o Othello, I, iii, 322, 344, 353 vs. P.R. 427-431
· YaleCourses. "22. Paradise Regained, Books III-IV." YouTube. YouTube, 21 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 Nov. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLYpT2-jLU0>.
o The poem is based on “this intellectual struggle to understand one’s identity” for Christ and Satan (4:03). This causes Satan to reach deep and argue from his soul.
· Adams, Chelsea. "Honoring Shakespeare: Othello's Iago as a Model for Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost." Web blog post. Team Milton. Blogger, 1 Nov. 2013. Web. <https://teammilton.blogspot.com/2013/11/honoring-shakespeare-othellos-iago-as.html?showComment=1479177382648#c710732424498424099>.
o Bases Satan off of Iago because Milton looked up to Shakespeare in form and mindset.
o “Milton’s first published poem was “On Shakespeare,” appearing in the Second Folio anonymously. The work, especially being Milton’s first published work, shows Milton’s reverence and honor for the greatest poet and playwright of his age” (1).
Christ Casts Satan Down
· Christ Casts Satan Down. Digital image. Typology in Paradise Regained. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/preg_gm.htm>.
Othello and Iago
· Othello and Iago, from National Theatre. Digital image. Quotes Gram, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://quotesgram.com/iago-from-othello-quotes/>.
· Ewan McGregor Talks about Iago. Perf. Ewan McGregor. YouTube.com. Custardflix, 17 Sept. 2008. Web. 12 Nov. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dF921GLl7g>
o Iago gets carried away with the power and is on a mad power surge (1:27-1:45).
o Shakespeare denies explanation to characters and audience because Iago has no rational explanation (2:14-2:28).
· Othello: Iago and Othello. National Theatre. Perf. Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear. YouTube.com. National Theatre Discover, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyoCIwJn9Ic>.
o Iago is disgruntled because he is Othello’s most trusted confidant and has seen the horrors of war with him.
o Sees himself as slighted and therefore plays on the “sensitive and vulnerable and weak” parts of Othello’s character (4:12).
o Iago sees his grievances as legitimate, and uses “subterfuge” and “insinuation” to fulfill his destructive plans (4:34).
· My husband Justin and I watched an Iago soliloquy and a Satan soliloquy together, then discussed similarities and differences between the two. We came to the conclusion that in his “put money in thy pocket” speech (almost a soliloquy, but very representative of his rhetoric), Iago uses the temptations characteristic of Satan: riches, sexual desire, and revenge. Ian McKellen also speaks quietly and quickly, forcing his audience to listen without interrupting and without major focus. In his representation of Satan, Ian Richardson is also collected in the beginning—his argument is headed in a certain direction and he is very eloquent. However, the further along he gets, he loses clarity. Instead of tempting with “basic” temptations in order to build his side up, Justin claimed that Satan was attacking heaven. Rather than constructing the attractiveness of his own side (like Iago), Satan deconstructed the opposing side.
· https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUBc8ydhbSM (Ian McKellen as Iago)
o Calmly angry—able to channel his rage to get exactly what he wants
o Speaks softly and quickly, doesn’t give his audience a long time to get upset
o Blurs the lines between love and lust to make lust seem okay
o Tempts using riches, revenge, sexual desire
· https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqnvWQZlQ50 (Ian Richardson as Satan, speech in Book I of P.R.)
o Calm and collected at the beginning, knows exactly where his argument is headed next. Builds steam as he goes on and gets very angry
o “though few be lost, not all be lost” à expresses hope in himself and his temptations
o Portrays Christ as the tyrant, “Tyranny of heaven”
Peer: Chelsea Adams, author of a blog post from Dr. Burton’s 2013 Milton class, now getting a Ph.D. in 20th century African Lit.
o Extremely awesome for sending me an article that was unfortunately, ultimately unhelpful
o “1. Look for research on the history of rhetoric for that time period (Meaning both when Shakespeare would have studied and when Milton would have studied.) I know that back when, the big controversy with rhetoric was that people would use it without regard to the morality of whatever it was they were using rhetoric to argue. As far as I can determine, this was a heated debate clear back in Ancient Greece. Looking at those "moral arguments" for not teaching rhetoric to everyone or using rhetoric to argue everything may be the key to unlocking the crux of your argument.”
Enthusiast: Amanda, author of Shakespeare-Online.
o Emailed, no response yet.
Expert: Robert Means, HBLL librarian over English Language and Literature
o Robert was helpful in pointing me toward some helpful research guides that I was unfamiliar with initially, and thus used incorrectly to search for articles.
o “You’re correct . . . we don’t have a separate research guide for Milton (only Shakespeare for now). But, never fear, the Milton stuff IS out there: in the MLA Bibliography, JSTOR, etc., and in monographs (books) that you can find by searching the HBLL catalog.”