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The malcontent is a character type that often appeared in early modern drama. The character is discontent with the social structure and other characters in the play—and is often an outsider who observes and comments on the action, and may even acknowledge they are in a play. Shakespeare's Richard III, Iago in Othello, and Jaques in As You Like It are typical malcontents.
The role is usually both political and dramatic, with the malcontent voicing dissatisfaction with the usually Machiavellian political atmosphere and often using asides to build up a kind of self-consciousness and awareness of the text itself that other characters in the play lack.
Important malcontents include Bosola in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, Vindice in Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, Malevole in Marston's The Malcontent, and Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The morality and sympathy of the malcontent is highly variable, as in the examples above. Sometimes, as in Hamlet and The Malcontent, they are the sympathetic centre of the play, whereas Iago is a very unsympathetic character. The most important thing about the malcontent is that the character is malcontent—unhappy, unsettled, displeased with the world of the play, eager to change it somehow, or to dispute with it.
The malcontent is an objective or quasi-objective voice that comments on the play's concerns as though somehow above or beyond them. The concept has much to do with the Renaissance idea of humorism and a surfeit of \"black bile\" which caused melancholy.
There is an ontological argument regarding Iago: if a malcontent is dissatisfied due to a displacement from their place in the social order, then Iago does not fit. His scheming and disaffection is not clearly motivated by resentment stemming from an injustice done to him.
It was joy, my little malcontent is growing up to be a "prop-a hate-a"!
JohnDewey: I think you're possibly assuming a bunch of other things about the malcontents that aren't necessarily justified i.e. that their malcontent is a personality trait, rather than a result of situational factors.
But to a growing legend of spectators, he's simply becoming known as the malcontent's best friend.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if Matthew Hoh was some kind of malcontent or incompetent, this would not be the story that it is.
Now, if Matthew Hoh were some kind of malcontent or incompetent, this would not be the news story that it is.
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