The Two “Demons” of Human History: the Puppet-Master (Who Transforms Humans into Puppets) and the Garbage-Man (Who Transports the Wasted Generations of Human Puppets to the Garbage Field)

– Turks are marching on Cyprus, it is wwwwwwwwwaaaaarrrrrr! Othello! The Doge charged me to tell you to take command of the fleet, and set sail toward Cyprus. What a cheek, these Turks! But now we’ll show them!
(Cassio who is happy to participate in war)

Iago – Bring with you a lot of cash.
Rodrigo – How much?
Iago – a lot of, a huge, a huge amount of money. But really a huge, an enormous pile of money!

Shakespeare aggrandizes and idealizes human complexes and puts the audience in a kneeling awe in front of their aesthetic majesty. Even his Iago is irresistible as perfection itself – we admire him in the very moment we are revolted by his machinations.

Othello is also aggrandized – as a victim of monstrosity; his simplemindedness is idealized as innocence and is worshipped, and his tragedy receives absolution from his creator (it is better to be fooled but to remain a pure soul). Shakespeare scapegoats Iago by not criticizing Othello’s credulousness, his lack of thinking and proneness to rely passively on somebody else’s words. The whiter is Othello’s blackness the blacker is Iago’s whiteness while they are just unaware collaborators in keeping the socio-psychological environment where liar is king and a dupe is considered innocent and moral. A similar situation is with Desdemona – her intellectual virginity becomes a white banner, she is perceived as a victimized sublime itself. Her mental un-alertness and inertia didn’t attract enough attention. As soon as she was a sacrificed person she had to be seen through the veil of sainthood. What else could redeem the fact of being wasted if not beautification? Besides, people and artists like to transform theatrical characters into the carriers of (ready-made) essences, to impersonalize them into mirrors of human complexes.

In his film Pasolini confronts not only Shakespeare as an author who has fetishistically/aesthetically distorted the psychology of the personages of his invention but also his audiences and the readers of the play for the past several centuries who have greeted and exaggerated this distortion by their own cathartic reactions. Pasolini concentrates on Othello and Desdemona’s credulousness and cognitive ineptitude that give Iago an excellent chance to be a successful wire-puller. In the film personal story signifies the psychological context of manipulation of people’s mind in general. Othello is psychologically not less immature than his youthful wife; he is truly her spouse in infantilism of the soul. Their pathetic gullibility is of the same kind as many Americans demonstrated by believing that Iraq had a hand in 9/11 attack.

We see that when “Othello” being performed in a barn-theater and Iago is on the stage, Othello from the back stage hears Iago’s scheming – he is witnessing how Iago is intent to hurt him and Desdemona and is just in search of an opportunity to strike. Still, this knowledge will not make much of a difference for Othello – it didn’t awaken in him any skepticism towards Iago’s innuendos. Knowledge is powerless in front of “destiny” – in front of our blind archetypal behavior. Pasolini’s film can help us to understand better the reaction of some Bushmericans on war in Iraq – their enthusiastic or just passive-silent support of the war. Let’s imagine that Cheneyfeld or Bushfowitz before the invasion of Iraq could come to the American public and state that while they know that there are no connections between Iraq and 9/11 they still intend to launch an invasion because “after 9/11 it is very important for us” to get the Iraq’s oil to have a stronger and a more mobile army and because “to be right in the middle of Middle East is crucial for our geo-strategic advantage”. The people’s passive agreement with war could still be very likely, as Pasolini’s Othello continues to trust Iago’s insinuations even though he already knows about his scheming, meanness and dishonesty. May be, lies about Iraq’s WMDs were not even necessary in order to get the passive/silent public support for the invasion. We belong to the archetypes of our basic motivations – Iagos must lie, Othellos must follow these lies as truths.

We unconsciously wish to be so morally impeccable and so virtuous that we are ready to believe that even our loved ones are morally worse than we are. We even agree to suffer extensively if we believe that our very suffering is the proof that we are better than others. And we like to feel fury and indignation for those who betray us because we like to be the sword of Justice. Othello kills Desdemona. We invaded a country for the invented reasons and became addicted to killing civilians and torturing suspects because we need to feel ourselves morally advanced over other people and nations.

But according to Pasolini we are just puppets – the personification of our archetypes, like: the credulous and righteous husband (Othelllo), credulous, righteous and a predatory public, the innocent wife who in her psychological development is stuck on the level of somatic and affective reactions (Desdemona), a shameless and shrewd schemer and corruptor for whom to play his role is more important than his life because nothing is as irresistible as to feel your power over the minds of others (Iago), or a simpleton who just wants to upgrade his status through bragging lies about his “success” with Desdemona (Cassio), etc. To be human puppets: to be unable to develop a unique individuality, to continue to live compulsively and to be moved by external influences, means to be forever monitored by the two demonic characters that Pasolini adds to Shakespeare’s play – the puppet master and the garbage man whose presence transforms the film into trans-historical parable. These two meta-characters provide the play with additional semantic space that allows Pasolini to transform tragedy into a comedy of grief. The function of the puppet-master is to reduce human beings to the condition of just being the carriers of schemes of typical behavior and to neutralize their intelligence which could awaken them into creativity and freedom. By throwing people-puppets into the dump field the garbage-man completes the puppet-master’s job by getting rid of generations of human puppets. Human history is radically prevented from developing and modifying itself.

Here is how the puppet master neutralizes the tiny shoots of human ability to think independently by using sophisticated strategies to confuse the human mind and make humans believe that by doing stupid things they are following Good and punishing Evil. When Othello is prepared by Iago to wish Desdemona’s death, the puppet master resourcefully dissipates his doubts:

Othello – I am a murderer. I am a murderer. Why would I have thought such a thing? Why I must trust Iago’s words? Why am I such fool?

Puppeteer – Perhaps because it’s actually you who wants to kill Desdemona.

Othello – What? I want to kill Desdemona? Why?

Puppeteer – Perhaps because Desdemona likes to get herself killed.

The proletarian audience watching “Othello” on the stage represents those who have for centuries used art for their blind emotional catharsis – for getting an aesthetic relief from hard life. This faceless mass is Pasolini’s parody of the working people as the “makers of history”. They are imitators and consumers of patterns of human behavior that were assimilated by the world culture. They are the philistine audience of spectacles and battles of history. When they become agitated enough to participate in history it happens exactly as Pasolini shows it – they jump to the stage, trash the actors, and in these moments they are noisy and violent. They are mass killers and mass victims.

Othello pretends he doesn’t know how disgusting and dangerous Iago is because he wants to be extra-kind and extra-good. He likes to be forgiving and doesn’t want to remember the evil deeds – in today’s American context Othello is exemplary politician-democrat. When he overhears Iago’s destructive plans he has the same facial expression as the Democratic Senator Tom Daschle facing the unscrupulous attacks by the extremist conservative politicians, and after this he, again like Daschle or Harry Reed in similar situations, calls Iago his friend because what he really wants is to convert him into goodness by providing himself, Othello, as an irresistible role model.

The Puppets Representing Human Archetypes
Human Archetypes Are Ready To Be Activated
Puppets representing human archetypes are ready to be activated to perform in Shakespeare’s play.

Introduction to "Wild Sex"
In Pasolini’s film Othello and Desdemona know very well about Iago’s animosity – they feel it is unjust and they’re righteously sulking about it. Is this an adequate reaction in response to Iago’s behavior? Is there a connection between their sentimental reaction and Othello’s credulity and Desdemona’s inertia in relation to circumstances?

Introduction to "Wild Sex"
This shot can serve as an introduction to the scene of metaphorical love-making between Othello and Desdemona – a “wild sex” of mutual consumption.

The New Character Pasolini Adds to Shakespeare's Play
Puppeteer in the film is a master of ideological propaganda who keeps human beings in a condition of puppets. He cripples the human intelligence by not letting people to transcend their archetypal identities.

The Seconnd Character Pasolini Adds to Shakespeare's Play
The Garbage-man is on his way to dispose the outworn bodies of the puppets to the dump field of history. The Velazquez’s painting “The Toilet of Venus” seen behind him, depicts (can be interpreted in the context of the film as metaphorically representing) the function of ideological propaganda “to make the backside look like a face”. It is for the same reason that the garbage-man while transporting corpses sings a “beautiful” lyrical song of sincere compassion for the victims. And what a “romantic” expression his eyes have! Beauty pacifies tragedy – comedy laughs at beauty as a neutralizer of tragedy.

Casio as a Comic Character
Cassio as “Every-Man” – a braggart, liar, war-fan and war-lover

Iago as a Political Figure
Iago tries to play his role as a global village villain splendidly. It is a great narcissistic pleasure to be Iago. Karl Rove played Iago in real life not worse than Toto did on the stage and in front of Pasolini’s camera.

Iago as a Good Person Who plays His Social Role Well
But, as we see, with friends and comrades Karl Rove is a dear friend and a sincere and a warm-hearted person.

Iago as a Propagandist
Iago is obviously successful in explaining to Othello how the global economy and bailout of the financial schemers and adventurists are good for the American people and economy.

Being Thrown to Garbage Is Good for Meditation Under Clouds
Puppet-partners Othello and Iago (creatures who completely belong to their psychological archetypes and are not capable to overcome their prescribed roles) are looking up into their near-by future life.

Otello Notices the Clouds
While thrown to die in the heap of garbage, Othello for the first time notices the clouds (his whole life he looked at the world mainly horizontally – he only noticed goals that were right in front of him and other people with whom he was surviving and among whom he was making his career and following the rules as best as he could). Contemplating the end of their particular incarnations of their corresponding archetypes, Iago explains to Othello that clouds are the beautiful frame of immortality that marks the blissful way upstairs.

Posted on Jan 8 2015 –   “What are Clouds?” (1968) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (A Short, 22 min, Contribution To “Caprice Italian Style”) – Pasolini Adds To Shakespeare’s “Othello” Two Additional Characters by Acting-Out Politics