Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Gavin Hollis

Second Advisor

Cristina Alfar

Third Advisor

Janet Neary

Academic Program Adviser

Janet Neary


My thesis argues that Shakespeare’s villains, Iago and Edmund, are displaced from their rightful positions and are left isolated from society. While many critics either condemn or defend Shakespeare’s villains, I will examine how both characters use their knowledge of rhetoric and persuasion to survive the displacement that they have experienced. The first chapter explores the importance of military ranks and the mentality of a soldier in Othello. War becomes a metaphor to Iago, and because of his displacement as lieutenant, he takes initiative to win the war. I will examine the different masks he wears, his powers as a rhetorician, and his brilliance in improvisation. The second chapter explores the importance of nature and the displacement of home in King Lear. Because of his circumstances being born a “bastard”, Edmund believes he has been removed from his title and his right from being son and heir. King Lear differs from Othello because the sense of displacement is from an English court rather than from military and domestic life. I conclude with analyzing how Edmund and Iago’s detachment from other characters allow them to maneuver and outsmart everyone else. I question if these characters are symbolic to England’s own place in the world due to its own sense of displacement. This presents a challenge that may lead to further studies of other Shakespearean characters that represent an isolated England.



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