The Joker in the Pack

W. H. Auden, “The Joker in the Pack,” in The Dyer’s Hand, 24672


If any consideration of the Tragedy of Othello must primarily be occupied not with its official hero but with its villain. I cannot think of any other play in which only one character performs all personal actions – all the deeds are Iago’s – and all the others without exception only exhibit behavior. In marrying each other, Othello and Desdemona have performed a deed, but this took place before the play begins. Nor can I think of another play in which the villain is so completely triumphant; everything Iago sets out to do, he accomplishes (among his goals, I include his self-destruction).

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