posted on Sep, 27 2016 @ 11:55 PM
a reply to: zosimov
Two other great Shakespearean villains tell us something about the nature of evil.
One is Shylock. His insistence on the letter of his contract with Antonio at the expense of mercy and humanity makes him no different from many an
‘honest’ businessman, even in our day. Donald Trump was boasting about his own achievements in that department just the other night. Shylock is a
creep, but he is an honest man, a devoted father and a suffering victim of racial prejudice. Indeed, it is only prejudice — shared by the characters
in the play and Shakespeare’s audiences at the Swan and the Globe — which makes him into a villain at all. Shylock is a Jew. That is his greatest
To Shakespeare’s great credit, the courtroom scene in The Merchant of Venice
shows how prejudice and continuing insult have embittered
Shylock to the point where he yearns for sanguinary revenge against his Christian tormenters. But — as a man who is, by his own lights, decent and
moral — he insists on having his revenge through the courts, through due process of law.
Shylock is a villain, but he is not an evil man.
The other great Shakespearean villain is, of course, Iago. Though Iago gets his comeuppance in a dubious kangaroo-court trial at the end of
, he hasn’t really committed any crimes. What he has done is manipulate a husband, through the malicious deployment of third parties,
to murder his wife. Even his motives for doing this are not clear: is he simply angry at Cassio’s promotion? Envious of the Othello’s success?
Angry at his own failure? Was he, perhaps, spurned by Desdemona? Iago is the classic literary villain because there is little or no justification for
his villainy; he represents the apparent inscrutability of evil.
Of course, evil is only inscrutable if you think of it as a self-sufficient quality or entity. But discussing that will carry us off topic. I prefer
complex villains to simple ones.
edit on 28/9/16 by Astyanax because: of lights.