A Doll’s House vs Othello: Compare & Contrast

A Doll’s House vs Othello: Compare & Contrast
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Although on the surface Iago and Krogstad may appear to have similar motivations, there is a world of a difference between these two characters. Iago seems to be driven by hatred, jealousy, racial prejudice, and a natural deviousness; while Krogstad’s actions can arguably be defended on the grounds of self-preservation and a genuine concern for his family.

Of the two villains, Krogstad was most definitely the more benevolent one. Iago, being a trusted ensign, was fully aware of Othello’s irritability; and yet, he harbored no concerns for Desdemona’s safety. Krogstad, on the other hand, did empathize with Nora on some level, since he had been through the very same predicament once. He had also once forged a signature and had to face the consequences. Krogstad betrayed a genuine concern for Nora’s safety when he discouraged her from contemplating suicide:

“Krogstad: Most of us think of that at first. I thought of it, too- only I hadn’t the courage.

Nora [dully]: Nor had I.

Krogstad [relieved]: No, you haven’t the courage either, have you?

Nora: No, I haven’t- I haven’t.

Krogstad: Besides, it would have been a very stupid thing to do…” (Act II)

Krogstad also tried to terrify Nora of the horrid details of the suicide, which once again shows his concern for her safety. At one point in Act II, Krogstad tells Nora that even “a mere cashier, a scribbler” like him had “feeling”. He also asked her rhetorically if her husband had ever thought of his (Krogstad’s) children while making the decision of firing Krogstad.

Even though it might be suggested that Krogstad’s actual motivations were grounded in a desire for exacting revenge from Helmer, it is clear that revenge was not the only thing on his mind. The demand that he made was realistic, and he was under the impression that Helmer would make those concessions under Nora’s influence.

Iago, on the other hand, was driven purely by jealousy and malevolence. He believed that Othello had wronged him gravely by promoting a less capable officer over him. However, that was no reason for the betrayal of trust. Iago’s behavior suggests that it was not ambition that fueled his treachery; rather it was an innate deviousness and a penchant for manipulating people that he evidently possessed.   

Iago is the classic villain: cunning, two-faced, and disloyal. He is probably one of the vilest characters ever played on stage. Ludovico says to Iago:

“O Spartan dog,

More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea!” (Act IV)

            Iago, in my opinion, bears a fair share of the blame for the breach of trust between Othello and Desdemona, as well as Desdemona’s eventual murder. It is true that Othello was simple-minded and naïve, but naivety was never a crime. However, this does not absolve the Othello of the crime he committed. Krogstad, on the other hand, although guilty of the crime of blackmailing a person, was never responsible for the disintegration of the marriage. All credit for that goes to Helmer and the norms of patriarchy.

            In both these plays, the ultimate blame must rest with patriarchal norms and the chauvinistic concept of “honor”. Othello’s rage at the thought of Desdemona’s infidelity was fostered by the norms of his time. Helmer’s anger at the thought of being obliged by Nora, as well as his constant dismissive attitude towards her, is also something that the sane modern reader finds indefensible. 

Works Cited:

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. A Doll’s House and Other Plays. Tr. Peter Watts. London: Penguin Books  Ltd, 1965. 145-232. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Four Tragedies. Ed. David Bevington and David Scott Kastan. New York: Bantam Dell, 2005. 318-473. Print