Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dusky Deeds

image borrowed from bing

Dusky Deeds

“I will wear my heart on my sleeve, for daws
to peck at: I am not what I am.”--Iago

The roots of racism run miles and centuries deep,
as Shakespeare noted, using it as a catalyst
in many of his plays.

His most perplexing and finely drawn villain,
the most manipulative of his antagonists
was Iago in Othello: the Moor of Venice (1603),
a long play that drives straight ahead, relentlessly,
without any comic relief subplot.

Tight, cleverly written, this is a Machiavellian
role with lethal layers, wholly amoral, cynical,
angry, jealous, envious, but still containing
depth & spirit, as he was a dangerously sly
and intelligent psychopath. 

Interestingly, Iago has the most lines in the play,
1,070 of them, far more than Othello--
the most lines for any non-title character
in Shakespeare; what can we deduce from this?

Iago plants the seeds of hate early on,
“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
is tupping your white ewe--making the beast
with two backs.”

What we know, or think we know of Iago, came
from the various theatrical and film productions
of the play. Most of the actors playing Othello
have not been black--Ralph Richardson, John
Geilgud, Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Raul
Julia, & Anthony Hopkins; outnumbering the black actors
who have tackled the part--Paul Robson, James Earl
Jones, & Laurence Fishburne.

Yes, it is always Iago that is the lightning rod, 
the motor for the play, powering the plot, and
his dark motivations have been interpreted
by several noted actors:

Laurence Olivier played him at the Old Vic
in 1938, adding a homosexual veneer to
his jealous rages & malevolent behaviors.
They say David Suchet played him as gay
at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985.
Kenneth Branagh’s Iago in a film version,
showed a conflicted affection for Othello.

Ian McKellen gave him another fey shadowing
in a 2004 production, done as a 19th century
setting, and the critics complained that his
portrayal was “too brilliant as he out-shined
the rest of the cast.”

Jose Ferrer played him as brooding, slick,
& intelligent on Broadway in 1942, playing
opposite Paul Robson. 

Bob Hoskins in a 1981 BBC production,
opposite Anthony Hopkins, played him
As “quintessentially evil, rotten to the core”
outshining Hopkins.

Christopher Walken, playing opposite Raul
Julia in a 1991 Shakespeare in the Park
production, played him as “inexhaustibly
snide & wonderfully beastly.”

Christopher Plummer, opposite James Earl Jones
in 1982, played him as witty-evil, smiling, a con man.
Philip Seymour Hoffman got rave reviews off Broadway,
doing a marvelous non-star turn with “a provocative
portrait of a man burned to an ashen, angry nihilism
by years of unrewarded service.”

Only Ewan McGregor seemed to earn unanimous 
negative reviews, and it was written of his portrayal,
“He had no glee, no panache, no light and shade.”

It is past time, people--we just have to own the several
shades of darkness in each of us; even we Boomers
who had our civil rights awakening during the free-
wheeling 60’s, in the glaring light of the Zimmerman
decision, and the indefatigable coverage regarding
the state of Racism in America today--

we need to ask ourselves the very hard questions
about our own motives, perceptions, relationships,
& prejudices, and regardless of our discoveries
therein, be prepared to pry our minds to the open
setting, and truly begin to reinforce our liberal
rhetoric with actuality, honesty, & verve. 

Glenn Buttkus'

July 2013

Posted over at dVerse Poets OLN107

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Beachanny said...

There is a tie between Zimmerman and Paula Deen and it is the tie that lies in the souls of everyone alive today. It is the dark river that runs to tribal times..the fear of the stranger, and the fascination with him. Does he bring plague and persecution and must he be killed, or does he bring enligtenment and salvation and must he be revered. It is so old, that racism and fear lives on the DNA and to expunge it takes careful interior study and a strong trust that at the heart of humanity, we are all the same. It's hard to manage that trust and Shakespeare knew and proved it.

Brian Miller said...

straight up no chaser how you ease into this taking us through variations on the character...the turn, ' It is past time, people--we just have to own the several shades of darkness in each of us,' def takes deep introspection to really own up and uncover those hidden faults...

zongrik said...

bottom line people are people and there is a need to challenge those who are different. race isn't the only reason we have evil intentions toward others who are different.

Fancy HOV Ridin’

LaTonya Baldwin said...

Well said, Glenn. We all have our shades of darkness.

Claudia said...

we def. need to check our motives and put what we believe onto the testing table every once and a while...really love how you spin this with the different characters - not really familiar with many of them - but you def. make me wanna check it out

Kate Mia said...

Wow! I love it when I hear social commentary in prose as it connects the emotion with the cold facts making an impact that dead words can't create!

We need Presidents that are Poets, perhaps we have one now.

annotating60 said...

Good write Glen. The villian always seems to get the best parts but is little noted because he wears the black hat. Interesting theatrical history too.>KB

Mystic_Mom said...

Bangs her mug on the bar. Here! Hear! This is so true. Well wrought with a final straight up punch to the thought maker. I like it.

Nara Malone said...

Just amazed by your skill, turning this discussion into a prose poem where every line packs a punch.

Jane Hewey said...

completely engaging, Glenn. I do not absorb facts in a linear fashion--the way you've set forth information here was easy for me to follow and comprehend. Hmmmm makes me wonder what else I could learn if it were presented so beautifully.

Ginny Brannan said...

Well said, being a "boomer," think your last to paragraphs absolutely nailed it. Much food for thought.

howanxious said...

racism is something that is present but not acknowledged in the modern society.. writing on a serious topic is difficult. but you managed it along with being informative as always..

mrs mediocrity said...

Yes, we still have so much to learn and evolve to when it comes to tolerating our differences.

Well done!

Maggie Grace said...

Fascinating to read since I know little of Shakespeare except Romeo and Juliet. Great message with no easy answers. Such crazy times right now...some things opening up in society while others trying shut things back down to where they were. Racism, chauvinism, elitism...ugh. Nicely done!

Anonymous said...

"racism is something that is present but not acknowledged in the modern society"

WTF! Moron!