Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shelf Life [adult]

I, Iago by Nicole Galland @SPL: FIC Galla

What is in a name? “Iago” is a Spanish derivative of the name James; Santiago is literally Saint James, Apostle to Jesus, patron saint of Spain. One legend of Saint James is that of Santiago de Matamoros – “the moor killer.”

Another legend of another Saint James says he was the younger brother of Jesus and came to be known as James the Just or James the Righteous. Take these two sources and put them together in one character and you get a plausible profile of one of the most enigmatic characters in Shakespeare’s canon – that of Iago, the villain in The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice.

Scholars have debated the reasons Iago does what he does for decades – aside from the barest of hints, Iago seems motiveless in his utterly destructive machinations which bring about the deaths of at least four people. Ironically referred to as ‘honest Iago’ in Shakespeare’s play, author Nicole Galland seized upon this moniker as the hinge for his motives.

If a fellow has been brought up in a shady society where subterfuge reigns, but he himself hates it; if he is called honest as an insult but instead wears it as a badge of honour; if he believes himself more honest than all others and becomes blind to his own faults – would he not begin to believe that he is the hero of story, the moral centre of the world, and any slight against him would be a wrong against honesty itself?

Therefore punishable by an honest man and righteously so? By writing her novel in the first person we see a man from the inside out, his actions rationalized by his own internal moral code, making him more frightening by the intimacy of sharing his thoughts than he would be by watching him as a third person.

Galland shows us a man of deep passions and raging jealousies who always exudes an outward confidence, a sociopath, in fact, although Iago to the bitter inevitable end, fails to see himself as such.

Even as he kills his best friend he justifies the murder, even as he stabs his own beloved wife in the back he releases himself from her condemnation. A familiar story with a fascinating and altogether creepy examination of a villian’s motives, this novel is recommended by any fan of Shakespeare, or even perhaps of the Dexter series – just for another take on the inner-mind of a psychopath.
This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on July 19th, 2012. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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