@Tim O’Neil re: Iago’s motivation. While he does mention Cassio’s promotion and his thought that Iago slept with his wife – along with his own feelings for Desdemona – the fact that he mentions all of these at different times in different contexts allows for the reading that he doesn’t actually have a simple motivation beyond hate.
Plus, I don’t think Iago is racist. He uses racist language in order to stir up Brabantio and Roderigo and use *their* racism against Othello – the rest of the time, he has nothing to say on the matter.
Perhaps my reading is colored: I had a discussion with one of the Shakespeare profs at my school – a very well-respected senior faculty who had been teaching Othello for many decades – and he personally thought the “Iago has no motivation” meme was baseless, and was able to explain in just a couple minutes exactly what Iago’s motivations were. He said he usually began his lectures on the play with the catalog of Iago’s motivations specifically to dispel the misconception. Quite convincing, at least for me.
Going back to the text, all the motivations are right there – and I am unconvinced that a multiplicity of motives makes any of them less valid. It’s possible to have multiple motives for doing even simple things, so why not multiple motives for complex acts?
After thinking about it for another minute, I just want to add that I don’t believe that Iago’s motivations contradict MGK’s CE alignment. I think CE makes a lot of sense: someone with a multitude of grudges, acting from a deep sense of personal animus, is going to act in as unpredictably ruthless and relentless fashion as possible. Just the fact that he doesn’t care at all for the collateral damage of his plot – unlike Shylock or Lady Macbeth, who are both, in their ways, very much aware of and concerned with the negative consequences of their actions – makes him an agent of chaos.
Hamlet is cruel to Ophelia because he thinks she’s in on it.
That’s one interpretation of the text, but hardly a universal one. Even if we accept it, it’s a guess on Hamlet’s part. Hamlet sought proof of his uncle’s guilt before acting against him. But when, on the basis of an unsupported belief that his girlfriend might be peripherally complicit in the plot, he deliberately drives her to despondency, madness, and suicide, you consider that to be an act of good? I don’t.
and to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they’re in the midst of trying to kill him and don’t ever seem particularly sorry about it.
Nonsense. R&G have no idea what they’re in the midst of. They have no idea the king was murdered, and there’s nothing to suggest they know that they’re escorting Hamlet to his execution. They are acting on orders, asked by their king to seek the reasons for their childhood friend’s melancholy, and wholly oblivious to the machinations in which they are caught. They aren’t co-conspirators — most productions I’ve seen run with the Stoppard joke where the king and queen can’t even keep their names straight. Yet Hamlet has them killed, even though their deaths do exactly nothing to further his goals.
In the end, he is avenging a murder, which is generally considered a “good” motive.
Committing evil acts in pursuit of a good objective does not sum to good overall. I don’t consider “the ends justifies the means” to be an aspect of any ethos in the top third of the alignment chart.
Come, now. Hamlet does not “deliberately drive” Ophelia “to despondency, madness & suicide”; his murder of Polonius–the crucial motivation for her resulting insanity–is clearly painted as an accident.
Likewise, to say that R&G simply “have no idea what they’re in the midst of” is to buy into revisionist literature. In the text of Hamlet, we can never be sure of the extent of their involvement with the plot–although we can be relatively sure of Hamlet’s belief of their involvement. As best as he can tell, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern HAVE betrayed him, and he acts accordingly.
Regarding Hamlet, I don’t think he “deliberately drives” Oohelia to suicide, but he is needlessly cruel towards her without any proof she is involved with anything.
Rosencrantz an Guilderstein are a more complicated matter. Neither we nor Hamlet have
any proof they’re in on anything. Still, he gets both of them killed.
I’m comfortable with Hamlet as TN.
On a nother note: Form which production is the image of Puck? Very disturbing image, indeed.
I don’t know, doing bad things to perceived bad people for “good” reasons is pretty textbook CG
An important thing to remember is that in many interpretations, Hamlet is in an extremely compromised emotional state. His father isn’t the only ghost he’s jumping at: Hamlet’s world is a place of shadows, conspiracies and paralyzing juxtapositions. Compare this with the traditional foil interpretation of Fortinbras, who commits definite, clear actions in the name of his own quest to avenge his father — none of which get nearly his entire court killed and his country conquered.
With all that in mind, Hamlet goes with many accepted interpretations of True Neutral. Everything from the silly “do something bad for every good thing you do and vice-versa,” to the more modern (3.0 era) “unwilling or unable to fully subscribe to the ethos/agenda of good or evil.”
To me, Hamlet makes sense as TN because of the deeply personal nature of his journey through the story. He is not really interested in order or justice other than as a tool to justify his actions and clearly paint his “enemies.” While self-invovled, he is not nearly hungry or monstrous enough to be truly called evil. His wish may be to destroy Claudious, but he believes it will bring balance.
Hamlet may call that balance Justice, but the only thing he’s really trying to fix is himself.
I think that Shylock is Lawful Neutral. All he wanted was JUSTICE, and because he was a Jew, he was denied it. That’s not fair.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
"[O]ne of the funniest bloggers on the planet... I only wish he updated more." -- Popcrunch.com
"By MightyGodKing, we mean sexiest blog in western civilization." -- Jenn
Subscribe in a reader