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“The Tragedy of Iago”

      Shakespeare’s play “The Tragedy of Othello” is one of the finest tragedies in English literature but it, and it’s villain Iago are still hard for us to understand. The novel “The Tragedy of Iago” seeks to make “The Tragey of Othello” more accessible to modern audiences by providing the context that Shakespeare would have assumed for the audiences of his time. It also tries to explain one of the most mysterious chearacters in the history of English literature, Othello’s second lieutenant, Iago.
The title “The Tragedy of Iago” may seem oxymoronic, even offensive. A tragic figure in drama is a good person who experiences failure due to a single minor flaw. Iago is often thought of as one of the greatest “villains” in English literature, a man of no appreciable virtue who does nothing but evil. In this light “The Tragedy of Iago” is oxymoronic.
An oxymoron is a juxtaposition of opposites such as a “feather of lead” or “black ink that still shines bright”. Shakespeare is famous for his study of the oxymoron and it is one of his greatest contributions to western culture.
“The Tragedy of Othello” both begins and ends with the character of Iago. He is a complex character in a fast moving and complex situation that a person could devote years to the study of. We are all of us a little of Iago, just as we all resemble all the characters in “The Tragedy of Othello” to some extent.
Shakespeare wrote about humanity before he was influenced by the technology of our age. Yet even he, in his writing, often seem to explore the wisdom of earlier ages, before the confusion of his society had taken root.
While much of the historical data has been lost to twenty first century North America, the Battle of Famagusta was an actual battle in 1571 A.D. between the Turks and the Venetians. It is possible that the 1604 A.D. production of Othello took a lot of emotional inspiration from the Spanish attempt to invade England in 1588 A.D. . But Shakespeare took literary liberties with the historical facts and while I have tried to remain loyal to history, when Shakespeare and history have contradicted, I have sided with Shakespeare. I am more interested in his notions of humanity than in the history of sixteenth century Cyprus.
This novel incorporates the actual text from Shakespeare’s play “The Tragedy of Othello” and adds poetry and narrative descriptions, including inner thoughts of the characters to create a new form of fictional novel: the narratively described classic. Different types of written material appear in different fonts.
Shakespeare had a lot to say to us that we do not listen to very well. But we would be wise to try.

On the Narratively Described Classic

Our kids need the classics! In today’s turbulent world of rap music and cellular phone, recombinant DNA and transgender journeys, political instability and 24/7 service, we all need the wisdom that emerged from times that were not necessarily simpler, but perhaps, better founded upon the essentials of life.
Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous example from English literature. The bard of Avon himself wrote his plays based upon the experiences of history. When we study Shakespeare, and he is a staple of North American high schools not to mention the rest of the world, we are studying not only excellent literature. We are studying the mind of a man from a different era who was able to devote himself to the study of Mankind, free from modern technology. Shakespeare is a vital link to the Humanity in us all.
But while Shakespeare is excellently written, he can be hard for us to read or understand. Shakespeare wrote plays and sonnets that could be enjoyed upon a simple stage with nothing but the investment of human mind and heart. But it requires skills that, though our children need them, they find challenging.
A new genre, the narratively described classic, provides both an academic exercise and an entertaining product that allows works such as Shakespeare’s plays to be analyzed, understood and shared. It converts a work like one of Shakespeare’s plays into a novel by using the dialogue from a Shakespearean play as the spine.
The writer keeps all of the scene locations, all of the entrances and exits, all of the actions and all of the dialogue, though he is permitted to change the dialogue slightly to modernize vocabulary. But he incorporates these into a novel with detailed description of back story and inner thoughts.
Shakespeare’s plays have lent themselves to endless interpretations by theatre producers and film directors. But these productions require financial investments that students lack. Developing such production skills is an educational objective, but these requirements are barriers to the students’ development of his understanding both of Shakespeare himself, and his subject matter: the life experiences of historical settings.
The narratively described classic is an exercise that benefits the writer. Providing possible back story is both an enjoyable and fruitful exercise in itself, though it is also part of an actor’s or director’s job. But the narratively described classic also can provide an enjoyable end product.
“The Tragedy of Iago” applies the process to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, “Othello” and transforms the play into a novel that, unlike the play itself, is easily readable for a modern audience. The task was enjoyable to perform. The novel is enjoyable to read and it is also illuminating upon the Human Spirit. Writing such a narratively described classic will not only improve their imagination, reading skills and writing skills, it will improve their humanity skills in a world where Humanity is under increasing threat.