Explore the motives which have driven the villains in Othello by William Shakespeare and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

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Explore the motives which have driven the villains in Othello by William Shakespeare and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

The motives behind the villains from Othello, We Need To Talk About Kevin and Rebecca are one of the key ingredients that attract the readers to the characters as, the writers choose not to explicitly spell out their true motives but to make the readers’ curiosity grow by giving them hints as the readers are able to interpret how they see the motives. Othello is a romantic tragedy written in 1603. Shakespeare has adapted the plot from a collection of tales by Italian writer Giambattisa Cinzio Giraldi called Hecatommithi (1565). Othello is still relevant in the modern society as we can still relate to the themes of love, jealousy, betrayal and racism. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a post-modern thriller by Lionel Shriver published in 2001. It is written in a series of letters from Eva a mother to her estranged husband Franklin. The novel mainly focuses on the modern society of America as Kevin’s crime is based on the real life Columbine shooting of American teenagers. Shriver also uses Eva’s character to explore the nature versus nurture’s debate and explores whether Kevin was born evil or was his behaviour a result of Eva’s lack of motherly love. Rebecca, a romantic, gothic novel written in 1938 by a British author Daphne Du Maurier, is set in the form of a flashback as readers discover the narrator’s new life at the stately home of Manderley. However, the main character of this novel is nameless as she is shown to be a “shy young woman”. In addition, the eponymous title of Rebecca over-shadows the narrator completely; making her a vulnerable target for Mrs. Danvers the housekeeper. Arguably Rebecca is revealed as a villain too, in so far as her name entraps the narrator. It will be interesting to explore the different interpretations of the villains’ motives for the destruction of others.

What unites these texts is the way each villain has their own purpose for their crime. In Shakespearean’s tragedy, a villain is used as an element to cause the downfall of a noble person. Iago is the “villain” in Othello. Iago’s enters the stage with “S’blood” therefore Shakespeare presents him as a highly blasphemous character. There is a suggestion that Iago’s character is based on a Spanish Saint of “Santiago Matamoros” which means St James the Moor-killer. At first glance, it would be obvious to suggest that the motive is racism as Iago says “I hate the Moor”. Here, the mono-syllabic tone of this statement emphasises the hatred. “Moor” is seen as a derogatory term in modern day though Shakespeare reveals the racist attitude that was current in his day through his plays. Furthermore, the sixteen century audience would not question the perspective of racism that this play implied as it is considered normal. This is because in Elizabethan times, moor was a religious term, not used for racial identity. By doing this, Shakespeare highlighted the fact that Othello is different from the society he lives in. This also implies Iago’s bitterness towards Othello was due to his race. Correspondingly, Iago’s motive here is to discredit Othello’s hard won reputation as Army General. The fact that Othello is placed at a higher rank than Iago in the Venetian society pushes Iago to expose the suppressed nature of the people in Venice as presented by Iago’s conversation with Brabantio at the beginning of the play. His use of crude racist and animalistic language as “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” exposes Brabantio’s racist nature and Iago’s bestial side. However, this makes the audience wonder whether Iago is racist since this could be part of his ability to adapt language in order to create maximum manipulative impact on others.

Iago is a great observer and judge of character as he is able to realises the hidden side of Brabantio. Likewise, Kevin is able to recognise the hypocrisy of his mother’s utopia as Eva despises the American way of life which is a contradiction as she hates “spoiled” people and yet she is “rich”. Iago succeeded in his master of manipulation as he is able to manipulate any character on the stage with his words. For example, his advice for Cassio that the “general’s wife is now the general” is in fact plausible as his “advice” is indeed “honest”. The reputation of “honest Iago” can be seen as an oxymoron as people in the Elizabethan times believed that they can tell people’s personality by their outer appearance. This supported by Iago’s belief that “knavery’s plain face never seen, till used” as this also reflects the ideology of the society as they often chooses not to look beyond the surface. Though, this is an idea that has work in favour of Iago as he suggests that “men should be what they seem”. Then again, he admits “I am not what I am” which conveys Iago as a cunningly manipulative character. Iago is sneaky as he is able to hide his malice behind his “honest” appearance. Iago has a positive reputation amongst others for honesty though he sees it as being “idle” and “false”. The term “honest” to describe Iago is seen as patronising and contemptuous.Correspondingly Rebecca hid her promiscuous side behind her “angelic” appearance as everyone including the narrator thought that Rebecca was perfect. However, through the eyes of Maxim she is presented as “rotten through and through” because she was unfaithful. The use of the word “rotten” to describe Rebecca is precise as her inside was truly decaying from cancer which could symbolise her corrupted moral. However, this is seen as controversial from the point of feminist reading because during the time which the novel is written, promiscuous women are seen as being immoral. This had been reflected in the novel as Rebecca was killed.

Iago is presented as a malcontent character as he is unhappy with the social structure of Venice because Othello promotes Cassio over him even though Iago has more military experience. Iago firmly believes that his malfeasance started by his thirst for revenge of Othello’s injustice of appointing Cassio over him. Iago can be seen as a victim of the corruption in the Venetian’s society as Cassio has never been in a battle field, yet he has the lieutenant’s position. Iago feels bitter towards Othello decision and portrays Cassio as an incapable man since Iago believes that he is more deserving of the position. This led him to have a personal grudge towards both Othello and Cassio. Iago becomes determined to destroy their happiness, peace of mind and credibility; eventually their lives too. Likewise, Kevin is discontent with the social structure of America as his conversation with his mother reveals. Kevin and Iago are connected in that Kevin sees his wrongdoing like he was putting on a “show” and Eva is his “audience”. Kevin believes that his crime is a kind of entertainment as he thinks there are only two types of people; the “watcher” and the “watchee”. Kevin chooses to be the “watchee” to gain notoriety and attention which could be seen as a motive. Kevin is merely a child who seeks for attention from his mother as he realises that Eva “never wanted” him which was true as she was not ready for a baby. This feeling is similar for Mrs. De Winter as she thinks that she is an inferior substitute for Rebecca. She believes that Maxim is “imagining” Rebecca in her place. Equally, Mrs. Danvers “resents” the narrator taking the place of Rebecca, which conveys a discontent in the social structure of Manderley as she constantly reminds the narrator that Manderley was “different when the late Mrs de Winter was alive”.

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Iago’s response to Othello’s love as “I am your own forever” conveys a sense of control and possessiveness; although through some interpretations this is seen as a declaration of Iago’s homoerotic feeling towards Othello. Besides, the homoerotic feeling could be a motive as during the Elizabethan era, homosexuality is illegal which led Iago to suppress his love for Othello by hating him. Furthermore, this also gives a reason to why Iago want to get rid of everyone that is important to Othello. Whereas, in Rebecca, there is a subtext to suggest that Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers were involved in a ...

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