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Bad to the Bone? - The Intriguing Outsider in King Lear and Othello

Uploaded by Crispinella on Jul 04, 2002

The declared villains in both Shakespeare plays are Edmund and Iago. Although they pretend to be adjusted to the cultural framework of their present environment, they are bearing evil ideas and plans in their minds and systematically set up targets which they fulfil step by step.

Both characters see themselves as outsiders to society. Although they are well-integrated and accepted by respected characters, they do not get rid of their negative motifs such as revenge, hate, greed, and envy. These ‘base’ motifs seem to be indeed the catalysers for the chaotic turmoil they cause. Edmund and Iago are dangerous to the stable community because their real emotions, ideas and plans are disguised, hidden within their heads and only verbally expressed when they are alone. The villains share their most intimate thoughts and analytic views with us, the audience. They justify their evil deeds against innocent characters by their negative attitude.

Edmund, on the one hand, interprets his educational exile outside the familiar boundaries as an exclusion from the warm family nest wherein Edgar had the privilege to stay. Edmund realizes his discrimination because he is born out of wedlock. He deciphers society’s rules in a negative sense: thus, he feels legally neglected and unfair treated bearing the comparison with Edgar in mind (e. g. heritage). By destroying the conventional framework of written and unwritten laws, Edmund’s misdeeds are in a sense justified because his illegitimate status or ‘unnatural’ nature urges him to fight against the conventional and institutional exclusion from financial benefits and rights. Edmund deciphers the subtle structures of his environment which tries to degrade him on a low, ‘base’ level (first sololiquy: I, ii, 1-22). However, by questioning the rules, values and conventions of society, Edmund shows the audience that society as such does not fulfil the needs of mankind - the situation is turned upside down: it is the society which is “stale” and “dull” and not him (I, ii, 124-40). Society itself and its legal members are an obstacle, a “plague”, which has to be destroyed step by step.

But what justifies Iago’s evil deeds? He seems to be a legal member of Venetian society. However, Iago feels neglected by his social environment, being not taken into consideration for a higher rank in the army. On top of that he often thinks that his wife Emilia deceived him with Othello (I, iii, 369-70). Like Edmund, he as...

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Uploaded by:   Crispinella

Date:   07/04/2002

Category:   Shakespeare

Length:   3 pages (627 words)

Views:   2361

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