Iago and Edmund: The Silence and Complexity of Evil

In both the tragedies of King Lear and Othello, the plot is affected by one character's malicious actions, which exacerbate any tensions that are already inherent in the relationships between the characters. Iago in Othello and Edmund in King Lear both feel as though they have been passed over in favor of someone whom they see as less deserving, and so their actions are driven by bitter resentment. With similar motivations, the two men also use similar techniques in their attempts to gain power by earning the trust of the other characters and using that trust as a tool in their exploits. Once their treachery is revealed at the end of the respective plays, however, Iago and Edmund display vastly different reactions, which will be examined later. Shakespeare's two villains demonstrate how evil exploits the weaknesses of human psychology, especially trust, and their actions sow seeds of destruction that inevitably result in death. Shakespeare also illustrates the different sources of evil as Iago and Edmund, after being unmasked, display two different reactions that reveal the complexities of motivated malignity.

Iago and Edmund profess their desire for revenge and power in their initial speeches. In the opening scene of Othello,...

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