In spite of all the splendid attributes of competence, dignity and self-respect that accompanied the honorable and valiant Othello in his military career, he was merely mortal, an easy victim of the green-eyed monster. Gen. Petraeus, like Othello, a famous soldier with an inventory of war stories to impress a younger woman, is both a soldier and a man who must find the exquisite balance of honor and vulnerability. The modern four-star general, like other men who discover that power is a very effective aphrodisiac, was disarmed by a woman who draws attention to her well-toned body and gives new meaning to a woman who bears arms. We can call this saga "Of Arms and the Man."
We think our oh-so-open-minded, post-modern attitudes have triumphed over ancient rules written to govern behavior, but Cupid's arrow can strike an Achilles heel -- or another part of the anatomy -- as swiftly as it ever felled a hero of the Trojan War. The medium doesn't change the message, it only delivers it faster and to a wider audience. Homer memorized his epics and repeated them to crowds in an amphitheater; Shakespeare labored with quill and parchment for his actors at the Globe. Their audiences, nevertheless, shared similar sentiments of pity, fear and schadenfreude.
Paula Broadwell, (even her name sounds like something out of Restoration comedy) is no virtuous and wifely Desdemona, but this is the 21st century after all, not the 16th. Instead of losing a handkerchief, the general's mistress lost control of her emotions. As the "other woman," she gave in to a jealous rage when she thought another "other woman" was poaching her guy.
The soap-opera scenario has become as complicated as any play by Shakespeare, and with as many characters, lacking only the Bard's eloquence to weave the tangled web of deceit and deception. That's too bad, because Gen. Petraeus could certainly repeat with feeling Othello's full-throated farewell to "plumed troop, and the big wars/ That makes ambition virtue! O, farewell."