The Power of Words: Iago as Reasoner

S Yagnasri

Assistant Professor, Department of English Studies, Davangere University, Karnataka India

Keywords: speech acts, reasoning, context, linguistic competence, pragmatic competence


Language has been an object of study and reflection since ancient times, yet the post-truth epoch compels us to revisit the language as our house of being. This paper attempts to reflect on the linguistic predicament by reading William Shakespeare’s Othello and trying to understand how reason limits Othello’s thinking and restrains him from engaging with Iago’s utterances as speech acts. As we all engage with this world through words, linguistic competence and the ability to perform and assess utterances, reflected by the philosophers of ordinary language philosophy, are significant aspects of human life. Though Shakespeare’s other plays, King Lear and Macbeth, also emphasize the significance of linguistic consciousness, understanding the verbal acts in Othello needs a different dimension. Othello’s pragmatic competence is caught in Iago’s reasoning and does not allow him to enter the locus of the speech act, leading to his decisive self-destructive acts. Using speech-act theory as a framework, this paper attempts to understand the rudiments that make this play a ‘verbal tragedy’.


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