Long-Term Questions

You may reasonably wonder:

What are the long-term intellectual projects underway behind the scenes at this weblog?

Indeed, two avenues of research occupy my mind. They will be addressed, dear reader, in good time. Please be patient with me.

1. Is it indeed true, as Mark Twain asserted, that Sir Walter Scott bears primary responsibility for the American Civil War?

2. Is not “Othello” perhaps Sheakespeare’s greatest?

Question #1 poses many convoluted problems. First of all, Mark Twain basically spent the Civil War in Hawaii. So: Can he really be regarded as an authority?

Secondly, Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” while enormously appealing as possible bed-time reading, requires seven years of uninterrupted leisure actually to read from cover to cover. Only the gentry of the Old South would have had a chance to read it all.

But I will get to the bottom of this question somehow, I promise.

Question #2 raises other questions…

1. Must not Verdi’s “Otello” be regarded as an altogether different story, since the opera does not include the crucial opening sequence of events in Shakespeare’s play, namely Othello and Desdemona’s elopement?

2. Does Ian McKellen “own” Iago on film?

In 1990, he played Iago as a fussy neat-freak, twitchy and (just a little too) grabby in his fidgets. Watching him truly does make a man’s blood run cold.

I have to admit that I have no great brief for McKellen. His Gandalf does nothing for me. He mumbles too much, and when he comes back as Gandalf the White, he looks like a cross between Wilfred Brimley and Fabio.

But I think the man does indeed own Iago in the movies. At least he owns the 1989 Othello movie, leaving plenty of altogether worthy co-stars in the dust.

Ian McKellen Iago


One thought on “Long-Term Questions

  1. Father Mark,

    “The truth will out!”: but sometimes you have to goose it a bit. If Sir Walter was “responsible” for the [brutal slaughter] of the Civil War, how much more so might he have been of the even more-brutal (percentage-wise, based on duration and number of deaths on the French side) slaughter of the Franco-Prussian War. Simply put, Mark Twain said a lot of cynical things, not all of which were the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    We’re (Pat and I, it’s not a royal we) in Germany, on the Main-Danube Canal, moored today in Neurenburg. Maybe there is some logic to your subject and our location; where’s Sam C. when we really need him.


    joe Doane

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