REVEALING THE LOWEST OF THE LOW – THE MOST DEVIOUS SHAKESPEAREAN VILLAIN.
Compiled by Andy McLean
1. IAGO (Othello)
When we asked our global panel of experts to name the Shakespeare villain they most love to hate, there was one character who kept turning up like a bad penny: Iago.
This is a character who is single-mindedly evil. From the opening scene of Othello to the last, Iago does nothing but plot, connive and scheme to bring down Othello and all those who love him. In fact, Iago is so utterly evil that, for centuries, audiences have puzzled over what could possibly have driven him to such depths of depravity. As Shakespeare enthusiast Lis from the Hollow Crown Fans website, says: “You can’t figure out what drives his actions psychologically. They are out of proportion with simply being passed over for a promotion.”
Social researcher and writer Dr Rebecca Huntley also names Iago as public enemy number one: “You really can’t go past Iago. He’s an evil genius and extremely good at identifying people’s weaknesses and turning them against each other. He’d be an excellent office psychopath.”
That’s a view shared by Dr Huw Griffiths from the University of Sydney: “There is something incredibly stylish about this man, an outsider to Venice, who causes absolute havoc and appalling violence through an almost compulsive need to implant fantasies into other people’s brains, using his highly persuasive speech. But when asked for an explanation, he simply says, “Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. / From this time forth I never will speak word.” I love the irony of the situation: a man who has done nothing but talk, now that he is asked to tell the truth, is insisting on silence. He’s pleading the fifth and, as I said: stylish. This silence must, in part, be about the extent to which his malevolence is ultimately inexplicable. But it is also a further extension of his villainy. He continues to stick two fingers up to the system right to the end.”
Follow Rebecca Huntley on Twitter.
Follow Dr Huw Griffiths on Twitter.
VILLAINS ON STAGE
Bell Shakespeare is currently staging Othello – featuring number one villain Iago – at the Sydney Opera House until 4 December. And soon after that, Richard 3 will be stalking across stages in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne (February to May 2017).