The Principle of Intrigue


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The essence of Intrigue

The concept ‘intrigue’ is charged with highly emotional connotations. People utter the word intrigue with repugnance. Intrigues are morally infamous and ugly. It is despicable to be unmasked as an intriguer.

Intrigue is a tactical attack from a safe shelter, designed to harm its victim. Cunningly, and usually with the help of camouflage, intrigue is effected to settle interpersonal conflicts.

The main ruses of intrigue are dialectic deformation of information and the manipulation of human behaviour, simplified by knowledge concerning typical reactions of the individual and his weakness. Dormant mistrust is easily aroused and the poison of artfully applied information works quickly. In ‘Othello’ Iago drops Desdemona’s handkerchief and, fully aware of Othello’s sensitivity, manipulates the Moor's jealousy to effect a fatal outcome. Only Iago knows the truth about the handkerchief - its dialectic - as, for Othello, the handkerchief is suffused with a different connotation, a connotation calculated by Iago. Iago’s motive is camouflaged and Othello is unaware that he is about to become the victim of a ruse. Iago’s dialectically calculated information, namely ’Desdemona’s handkerchief lying on the ground’, is the weapon whereby he wishes to achieve his aim. This malicious attack is a simply - conceived intrigue and clearly demonstrates its essence. Three people are generally involved in an intrigue. However, it is conceivable that an intrigue is affected between two people, if the plotter is able to make use of the sub consciousness or a suitable characteristic of a person. Thus Scarpia, the villainous chief of police in Puccini’s Tosca, deceives the guileless Tosca by telling her that her lover will only be shot ’for appearance’s sake’ and will hence be executed with blank cartridges.


The Stratagems

One can classify three basic forms of intrigue. If one differentiates according to the mode of attack used, these are: The indirect attack (e.g. Iago losing Desdemona’s handkerchief, or The Brave Little Tailor who throws stones at the giant in order to make him belief that his fellow-giant aimed at him) which is designed to make use of a third person, an intermediary, for the attack. This mode of aggression could be termed ‘the billiard stroke’ of the intriguer. In Psalm 64 - long time before Jesus Christ was born - humankind knew everything about intrigue - we find this basic form of intrigue


………and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words


The second mode of attack is applied if the intriguer makes use of a weakness of his object, a soft spot, and a compromising situation, to attack directly. This is the ‘thrust at the Achilles heel’. In this, the intriguer plays up a complaint for all it’s worth, after he had previously wheedled it out of someone.

The third basic form of intrigue is the conspiracy, the alliance of several persons to attack someone, set up obstacles or to harm the target object in some other way. According to an episode in the ‘Book of Judges’ in the Old Testament, the Philistines plot with Delilah, the mistress of Samson, to discover the secret of Samson’s strength and promise Delilah 1100 Shekels of silver in return.

As camouflage is an important aspect of intrigue, the present analysis does not delve into subsidiary forms of conflict disputes, be they dagger, rapier or poison. Intriguers who also make use of the dagger are, seen in this light, no craftsmen, as they leave traces - unless they instigate others indirectly to do their dirty work for them. Dumas’ chief intriguer ‘Count of Monte Christo’ is not only a case in point, but also the exception to the rule, as he plays his enemies off against each other so that they are eliminated

Apart from their classification of intrigue in its elementary forms, there is a further characteristic of differentiation recognizable to the victims. In the case of conspiracy, the attack is normally not immediately evident to the victims. In contrast, the victim of the attack is straightaway aware of the intentions of the intriguer if the latter makes use of defamatory vocabulary in public speeches to incite the audience against him. Only just discernible is the approbation of conciliatory but hypocritical flattery, which is combined with contradictory statements.

In Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ Mark Anthony makes a funeral oration in front of the Roman citizens that is designed to denigrate Brutus and, after accusatory statements, he regularly finishes with: ‘...but Brutus is an honourable man!’. Brutus can discern, of course, the guile, as the flattery does not accord with the committed murder. However, Othello only sees the handkerchief, not Iago’s intention. A deficit or a lack of information, a dissemination of information and the deformation of information is here the dramatic means. The audience, if not the protagonist, knows that a time bomb is ticking. In a chess game, certain situations are similar. Some intentions are very evident, yet some rider-moves are wrongly conceived.

Spanish literature has produced a great number of ‘intrigue plays’ in which the machinations are aligned like pearls on a string to titillate the audience. Schiller called one of his dramas ‘Cabal and Love'; Bismarck describes a whole series of intrigues in his ‘Cogitations and Memories’. No matter whether we investigate Moliere’s oeuvre or Scribe’s ‘Glass of Water’, intrigue is evident everywhere and it seems that the spectator is especially diverted and thrilled by this game. The selections of events allow the reader the opportunity, as with parables, to draw parallels from his experience.


Social aspects of Intrigue

However, people seem to enjoy intrigues in Comedies and Dramas, in Soap Operas and sometimes in political life, it is very clear that intrigue is of evil.

Intrigue is engulfing the society like a mushroom. Of what kind is the soil where the mushroom of intrigue is ruining the social body? What rotten stuff is the food for the mushroom? Evidently, not only an individual has a certain manner to manage conflicts by intrigue. It is also the conflict structure in the social body that is leading people on the rails of its patterns to certain machinations. Such rails or tracks are the result of the frequency of conflicts, the escalation of conflicts, and a certain manner to taboo conflict in showing off well behaviour. Experienced people do not take a certain smile always as a basic friendly attitude.

Intrigue might not be only an infamous device in managing conflicts. For the social body - sometimes - it leads to progress when a Gordon Knot has been cut. Since intrigue could be observed within the memory of humankind - Sophocles, Homer described intrigues and all the nations have a vocabulary for intrigue - we must agree that intrigue has certain function in social metabolism.

We all know Intrigue is of evil. However, since sometimes it solves conflicts in jammed social life - as in the pressure cooker of The White House - it is functional to promote conflicts towards progress. In such social bodies - one could find intrigue everywhere - there is prevailing a manner of superficial, smiling well-behaviour - poisoned arrows under the coat. Conflicting interests - just as two tree-trunks floating in the rapids - can become jammed and obstruct each other's passage, thus, Intrigue is a principle promoting social metabolism. However, there remains a striking contrariety between our principles of morality and the desirable progress gained by managing conflicts. Therefore, leaders of social bodies should always provide competence in the art of communication to solve conflicts free of intrigue

The Minefield of Intrgue