Early last year, I discussed an idea that I called “the Iago problem.” I argued that one answer to the question “why are there no Mormon Shakespeares” was that church members may lack the skill to breathe life into a truly evil character like Iago.
Recently, I rethought the question. And now, I’m not sure that the Iago problem is really much of a problem.
In a comment to Rosalynde’s post on creativity, I wondered whether all human creativity is simply ” the immature manifestation of a creative instinct which will come to full fruition when we design entire worlds and plans of salvation. ”
If that’s true — if our creativity in this life are seeds of our godly creativity — then ought we worry about our inability to craft Iagos or Amalakiahs? The answer all depends on whether God creates such characters. And this takes us to two related questions — first, should God create Iagos, and second, does God create Iagos?
There are good reasons why God should not try to create Iagos. Othello’s Iago is a destructive force, whose scheming leads to murder. Real-life analogue Amalakiah similarly blazed a path of destruction, sin, unhappiness, and loss. There may be limited reasons to affirmatively create evil agents — they do facilitate the “I will scourge Jerusalem with Babylon” types of prophecy — but it is likely that the good very seldom outweighs the bad, especially in cases of extreme evil like Iago or Amalakiah. In addition, there seems to be no reason within the Plan of Salvation to create a soul incapable of doing good. It seems clear that God should not go out of his way to create Iagos.
If God should not create Iago, does God create Iago?
It’s not clear that He does. Why would God, being perfect, create something which He should not? And why would He create a soul so rebellious that it is ultimately incapable of allowing itself to be redeemed? He would not. This suggests that God created the good elements of Iago, but that Iago’s dark side — the aspects of his character that make him interesting in literature — come from a different source.
(And if this is true, then Iago’s turning to a different source of creation may be the underlying cause of all of his evil — he is rejecting his potential as a son of God and rejecting the aspects of his personality that God created, exchanging them for a character drawn from other sources.)
Thus, creation of Iagos may not be a part of godly creativity at all. As Gods, we will spend our time creating good and combating evil — not trying to create more seductive, more refined evil.
I still wish that Mormon authors were better at depicting evil — I think that it usually makes a more interesting story. But if our creativity in this life is really about practicing for godly creativity, then I’m less worried about Mormon authors’ inability to create Iagos.