Iago The Strategies of Evil

Book #4 of Shakespeare's Personalities
By Harold Bloom

  • From one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time, Harold Bloom presents Othello's Iago, perhaps the Bard's most compelling villain - the fourth in a series of five short books about the great playwright's most significant personalities.
  • "I have for nearly three-quarters of a century avidly attended performances of Othello. The first was in November 1943 in New York City with Paul Robeson as Othello, Jose Ferrer as Iago, and Uta Hagen as Desdemona. The director was Margaret Webster, who also powerfully played the part of Emilia.

    By far the best Iago I have ever seen was the complex and frightening performance by Frank Finlay, which I saw in London in 1964. Laurence Olivier, acting in blackface, was a very inadequate Othello, acted quite off the stage by Finlay and indeed by the rest of the cast, Maggie Smith as Desdemona, Joyce Redman as Emilia, and Derek Jacobi as Cassio.

    In more recent years I have seen several splendid performances of Iago, but none to match Frank Finlay. In different ways Kenneth Branagh, the wonderful Simon Russell Beale, and the comedian Rory Kinnear all augmented my apprehension of Iago, but not even Beale matched Finlay. I should add that not once have I seen an adequate Othello, except perhaps Orson Welles in his film version (1951).

    Throughout this book, Iago: The Strategies of Evil, I will several times return to Frank Finlay's performance. It possessed a tense fusion between hatred and love for Othello".

  • Frank on the cover of the novels of Andrea Newman's A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Another Bouquet.

    The TV series in 1976 was hugely popular regularly achieving 26 million viewers.

    Frank was voted Best Actor in the TV Times Top Ten Awards for 1977 and his character Peter Manson was voted into the 100 Greatest TV Characters (Channel 4 ).

  • Doctor Who

  • A publicity photo of Frank as Porthos in the 1973 film The Three Musketeers was the basis for the musketeer on David McAllister's cover artwork for the novelisation of Doctor Who episode The Mind Robber.

    See below.

  • The Three Musketeers

    There are several editions/covers featuring Frank and the rest of the cast from the 1973 film The Three Musketeers.

  • Casanova

  • In 1971 Frank starred in the six part series of Casanova for the BBC written by Dennis Potter. It is loosely based on Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova's Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life; 1780-1792). It was Dennis Potter's first television serial, having previously written single plays for the BBC The series was a big hit with Frank gaining a BAFTA nomination best actor.

    The series attracted a lot of publicity and a number of complaints to the BBC. Clean-up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse, who regularly found fault with Potter's work, thought the first two episodes "boring" and believed the third used a kind of Playboy flashback photography. She commented to a journalist from The Glasgow Herald: "Of all the characters the BBC could have chosen to dramatise Casanova is the most ridiculous."

  • The Captains And Kings

  • Jennifer Johnston's 1972 novel The Captain and the Kings was adapted for television as The Last Campaign (1978) with Frank in the main role as Mr Prendergast.

    Mr Prendergast, an elderly Anglo-Irishman, is living out his last years in the decaying splendour of his family mansion. As his mind wanders through the gloom he finds it peopled with memories of his neglected wife, his pale shadow of a father, his icily glamorous mother and Alexander, the son she so jealously loved, killed in the First World War.

    With only his ill-tempered alcoholic gardener left to attend to him, Mr Prendergast is content to pass his days in such ghostly company. Until young Diarmid arrives, keen-eyed and carrot-haired, to disperse the gathering darkness with curiosity, and the promise of friendship.

    Born in Dublin in 1930, Jennifer Johnston's first published novel was The Captains and the Kings (1972). Since then, she has published many more novels, including Shadows on our Skin (1977), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction, and The Old Jest (1979), set in the War of Independence and winning the 1979 Whitbread Novel Award. The Old Jest was later filmed as The Dawning, starring Anthony Hopkins. She lives in County Derry and her novels have been published in many countries.