The paper examines Othello as metapoetry. Throughout the play, key points of comparison between Iago and Shakespeare's methodologies for employing allegory, symbolism, and mimetic plot and character construction shed light upon Shakespeare's self-reflexive use of poetry as an art of imitation. More specifically, the contrast between Shakespeare and Iago's poetry delineates between dynamic and reductive uses of allegory, emphasizes an Aristotelian model of mimesis that makes reason integral to plot and character formation, and underscores an ethical function to poetry generally. In consequence of the division between Iago and Shakespeare as unethical and ethical poets respectively, critical contention concerning the play's representation of race and gender receive commentary. While Iago authors reductive narratives that lead to stereotypes, Shakespeare's narrative critiques and condemns the works of his villain to argue against common opinion and customs which deny justice by replacing individuality with generalizations about groups of people. Moreover, as he demonstrates Iago's conscious, manipulative creation of such reductive narratives for his own purposes, Shakespeare draws attention to the construction of narratives both within and without poetry, and, in so doing, he defends poetry against the Puritan condemnations from his day by showing that these condemnations cannot be restricted to poetry alone. Ultimately, reading the play as metapoetry offers a perspective on Iago's characterization which blurs the typical classifications made by modern critics, challenges the notion of a reason/ imagination dichotomy wherein reason stands outside of or even in opposition to poetic imagination, and exposes the shortcoming of the critical view that Iago represents reason and the play Shakespeare's own concerns about its limitations.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Somers, Kathleen Emerald, "Pierced Through the Ear: Poetic Villainy in Othello" (2010). All Theses and Dissertations. 2436.
Othello, Shakespeare, Iago, allegory, mimesis, metapoetry, race, gender, reason