‘Iago: Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.’
– Shakespeare, ‘Othello’
‘Othello’ is the most compelling story about human evil ever seen or read. Shakespeare paints a portrait of Iago, the story’s villain, in intimate detail, revealing someone so entrenched in envy and hatred that he sets out to destroy a noble married couple’s lives and kills his own wife in the process. Iago wants to destroy Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, because he is jealous of Cassio’s position. Iago was relegated to the position of ensign by Othello, though because he has more military experience, he believes he should have Othello’s position. The upshot of Iago’s scheming is that Othello strangles his own wife, Desdemona, because of Iago’s repeated suggestions and ‘proof’ of Desdemona’s infidelity with Cassio. On learning the truth, Othello kills himself.
Afterwards, Iago chooses a life of non-speech surrounded by corpses, and I believe the implication of Iago’s silence is that there is no hope for his redemption. Granted, the story is extreme, but think of ‘Othello’ the next time the ‘green-eyed monster’ rears its ugly head.
‘Othello: I do believe it, and I ask your pardon.
Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?
Iago: Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:
From this time forth I never will speak word.
Lodovico: What, not to pray?’
Photograph © William Salter