two-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
58-May-June-2012
By: 
David Snodin
user_rating: 
0

737125.pngDavid Snodin is a television producer whose credits include Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Early in his career, Snodin worked as a script editor for the BBC’s long-running series on Shakespeare.

The Story: At the close of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, readers are left to wonder about the villain who drove the noble Moor to madness. Who was Iago? Why did he commit such terrible acts? Snodin answers these questions in a story set just weeks after Othello’s and Desdemona’s deaths. In 1520, Iago is captured in Cyprus, escapes, and is then recaptured in Venice. Annibale Malipiero, the Chief Inquisitor of the Serene Public of Venice, not only likes extracting confessions from killers but is also interested in understanding the motives behind their crimes. Frustrated when Iago refuses to talk, Malipiero recruits an unlikely spy to uncover Iago’s darkest secrets.
Henry Holt. 464 pages. $28. ISBN: 9780805093704

USA Today 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Of course it’s intriguing to see how Snodin reimagines Iago, and how the author exposes Iago’s motives for having betrayed Othello. But in the end, Iago 2.0 is a bit of a bore." Carmela Ciuraru

Washington Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Most of the time the story moves along briskly and colorfully enough to distract us from the tenuous logic of its plot. … But for all the story’s colorful entertainment, Iago’s motivation in Othello is crystal-clear compared to Malipiero’s unfathomable goal in these pages." Ron Charles

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"Despite impressive research and his patent affection for the play, Snodin makes the characters in Iago too thin and stereotypical and the plot too improbable for our willing suspension of disbelief to tolerate." Daniel Dyer

Milwaukee Jrml Sentinel 1 of 5 Stars
"[W]hile Snodin’s Iago gets acquainted with some of the 16th century’s most ingenious inquisitorial devices, it’s readers of this painfully bad book who will be screaming for mercy before they’re through. … Snodin makes matters worse by sprinkling his prose with hundreds of italicized Italian words; inserted to give his story local color, they read instead like a parody of the dialogue in a bad Hollywood movie." Mike Fischer

Critical Summary

David Snodin clearly knows his Shakespeare, but critics found the book’s premise far more interesting than its execution. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewer was not alone when he bemoaned the "tired and hackneyed writing" and "preposterous plot." Additionally, Iago’s backstory turns out a bit of a letdown, with family issues better suited to a Jerry Springer episode. If interested in Iago or Othello, readers may wish to turn to the original.