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Shakespeare, Othello, character relationship


Certainly the argument that the principle of complementarity illuminates Othello is nothing new in Shakespeare studies. Over twenty years ago, Norman Rabkin, using an analogy from modern physics, described Shakespeare's characters and motifs as composing complementary wholes. The following excerpt accurately represents his reading of Othello's character: "He is what he is by virtue of what he is not. And what he is not, what he excludes from himself, rises quickly to the surface in the person of Iago. Whatever formulations we make about it, each reader senses the intimacy of the relationship between these mighty opposites, the degree to which they form halves of a personality that neither possesses in full." When critics write about complementary character relationship in Othello, they almost always focus on Iago and Othello's diabolical association. Frequently they, like Rabkin, regard the relationship as one of antithesis. Rabkin's judgment contains a phrase that figures in the title of a relatively recent study by Robert Grudin, Mighty Opposites: Shakespeare and Renaissance Contrariety. Might not Iago and Othello's relationship, as usually described, more precisely be called one of contrariety?