If you felt a little thrill this morning and didn’t know why, it’s because the full text of Shakespeare’s Othello is now on RG.
Terrifying, heartbreaking, endlessly controversial, Othello is one of the great psychological dramas ever created. It’s also the play that practically invented the villain as we know it. “Honest” Iago, the military man who gets passed over for a promotion and decides to ruin his boss’s life, is the template for every bad guy in every bad movie you’ve ever seen: hyperintelligent, cheerfully mocking, deeply resentful, and possibly psychopathic. Samuel Taylor Coleridge accused him of a “motiveless malignity”; William Hazlitt claimed he “stab[bed] men in the dark to prevent ennui”; and W. H. Auden viewed him as the archetype of the heartless practical joker. He is The Joker without the clown makeup, the Devil without the horns. (A lot of people think Satan in Paradise Lost is based on him.)
He’s a nightmare and a mystery. And now he’s yours to interpret, along with the rest of the play. Have at it.