Iago enthrals us four centuries after his creation because we do not know what induces him to raise hell. The drama of Othello is better, not worse, for the lack of an answer. It showcases what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity”.

The Joker, pop culture’s Iago, was a similar blank until last week when the most discussed film of 2019 came out. Joker settles the question of the villain’s motive. It attributes his evildoing to ostracism, and that ostracism to mental illness, and that mental illness to assorted traumas.

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