The Psychoanalytic Perspective In Relation To William Shakespeare's "Othello" Iago

1440 words - 6 pages

There are a number of perspectives that a critic can use to interpret a work of literature. One perspective, the psychological approach, deals with interpreting the text by using what is known about psychology. Some critics will try and understand the writers while, "still other critics employ methods of Freudian psychoanalysis to understand not only the writers themselves such as Shakespeare but the literary characters they create" (DiYanni, 635). In Shakespeare's play, "The Tragedy of Othello," a critic might want to use the psychoanalytic approach to help understand Iago. In order to do so, one might look at the characters and their wants, needs and desires. On top of this, an in-depth ...view middle of the document...

This seems to be another reason why the play is so deeply disturbing. In Iago's case, it reveals the essential human hollowness of one who can never recognize what every other character's thoughts and feelings. More clearly than any other character, Iago exhibits why human life ultimately cannot protect and defend itself in mere will, or find any fortress worth defending that is stronger than its own power to hurt and to be hurt.Iago's life philosophy is quite simple. No love, no emotions or desire is the center of his whole life and it decides everything. Iago is a tragic character. What he has done has been done following this principle unconsciously, and in this way a kind of extreme example has been shown to the readers. In fact everyone, both in this play and in reality, shares some similarity with him. Therefore, this evil character Iago should not be simply criticized, but be meditated and analyzed, giving some enlightenment.According to Freud, "The unconscious contains all those drives, urges, or instincts that are beyond our awareness but that nevertheless motivate most of our words, feelings, and actions" (Feist, 23). Unconsciously, Iago may be acting the way he does for he has some homosexual tendencies. He admits to loving Othello and even cries with Othello when he wants Iago to replace Cassio. Iago announces, "Witness that here Iago doth give up the execution of his wit, hands, heart to wronged Othello's service!" (Act III Scene iii, Lines 462-64). This statement portrays how Iago loves Othello and is willing to give up everything in order to serve him.Iago also shows little compassion for male-female relationships including his own. He even makes comments about recently sleeping with Cassio and about Cassio's actions to Othello. Cassio proclaims, "And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand, cry 'O sweet creature!' Then kiss me hard, as if he plucked up kisses by the roots that grew upon my lips; laid his leg o'er my thigh, and sigh, and kiss..." (Act III Scene iii, Lines 418-22). In reality, Iago could have been fantasizing about being in bed with a man. However, with these homosexual tendencies, it is understandable that Iago has a motive to win over Othello's love. Iago's homosexual needs can be seen as dreams or fantasy, his unconscious tendencies toward his inner desire. In contrast to the unconscious and the conscious, it "can be defined as those mental elements in awareness at any given point in time" (Feist, 25). Consciously he is out to manipulate Cassio for he feels that Cassio stole his position as lieutenant. Therefore, he wants Cassio out of his way and wants Othello to favor Iago on top of everyone else.Iago also admits to loving Desdemona and maybe because of this wants Othello and Desdemona's marriage to be doomed. Yet again due to his unconscious desires, Iago's conscious actions destroy their marriage. He is also...

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