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From Chaucer’s Pardoner to Shakespeare’s Iago

Aspects of Intermediality in the History of the Vice


Maik Goth

In The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages the American critic Harold Bloom claims that Shakespeare drew on Chaucer’s Pardoner when creating the villain Iago for his Othello. This book turns Bloom’s observation of influences within the canon of Western literature into a more complex intermedial analysis of dramatic and literary traditions at the waning of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance. The discussion of verbal and non-verbal codes in Chaucer’s presentation of the Pardoner and Shakespeare’s depiction of Iago sheds light on the various strands of the Vice’s development, and shows that Chaucer’s pilgrim, who descends obliquely from the stage Vices, stands at the very beginning of the Vice tradition, while Iago is a late development of him, who adapts his role to new dramatic challenges.
Contents: The Problem of Canonicity; Scenes from the History of the Vice – Audience Address and Interaction in the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, and Shakespeare’s Othello – The Use of Verbal and Non-Verbal Codes – Tale-Telling and Church Rhetoric – The Development of the Vice Character.