By Harold Bloom
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Extra info for William Shakespeare's Othello; New Edition (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations)
But in between us and the light of her truth appears Iago, to cast the shadow of a lie across Shakespeare’s stage. Not that Shakespeare is defining his craft as a lie. Rather, I should think, he is defining it in this case as a tragedy. To say “the perfect ceremony of love’s rite” is the proper function of the comic rather than the tragic poet, and in that role Shakespeare does more than his share of haling young lovers before the altar of his hymeneal art. The perfect ceremony of tragedy, however, is not a wedding but a killing, and as a participant in that ceremony Iago is functional in the extreme: Shakespeare wields him like a ritual knife in an action that drives straight to the heart.
Cataloging Iago’s stage practices is less meaningful, however, than registering their staginess. 395). By staginess, then, I mean mediation. Situated between two idealists, Othello and Desdemona, who believe they communicate not in but through words and bodies—that is, who think signs and referents (and signifiers and signifieds) are so fast married that communication From The Properties of Othello, pp. 113–34, 152–54. © 1989 by the University of Massachusetts Press. 21 22 James L. Calderwood is virtually intuitive—Iago stands for mediation, for inbetweenness and the shaped made-up-ness of things.
Not even Shakespeare’s plot is perfect, however. In fact, if Iago’s last speech undermines the concept of a causal beginning, Othello’s last speech undermines the concept of an actional end; and both combine to make an assault on formal perfection. As I said before, no action is complete until it is understood. Unfortunately no action is ever completely understood, for the signs of its understanding, the terms of its definition, are unending; there is always more that could be said. Every action, however unequivocal in appearance, attenuates 38 James L.