Observing Jealousy in “Othello, The Moor of Venice”

Observing Jealousy in “Othello, The Moor of Venice”


Love and jealousy are powerful emotions that can induce behavior that would otherwise not normally be warranted. In Othello, The Moor Of Venice, jealousy is a very important component of the play. Iago uses jealousy to control the Moor, Othello, into committing various acts against his wife, Desdomona, and one of his soldiers, Cassio. It can be deduced that the sheer power of jealousy is the most important theme in Othello because the play shows how a strong General, such as Othello, is subject to this malicious emotion and its trickery, how the strong emotion of love can be transformed into the omnipotent emotion of jealousy, and how jealousy can shroud the truth.

In short, Othello, the Moor of Venice, is about the forbidden love between Desdomona and Othello. Roderigo, a man of wealth, is filled with envy, for he craves Desdomona as his own. Thus, Roderigo pays Iago, Othello’s ancient, to help him win Desdomona over. Iago creates a cascade of events that lead Othello into a fierce jealousy. This jealousy leads to Othello losing himself, and many people who he had deeply cared for. Furthermore, Iago uses Cassio as his pawn in these events since Cassio took the position of lieutenant, in which Iago so desperately wanted. Indeed, Iago’s plans work mostly in Iago’s favor.

In Act 3, Scene 3 of the play, Othello’s jealous rage commences as he spies Cassio and Desdomona conversing in the castle’s garden. When Cassio notices Othello is approaching, he slinks away in respect of his Lord. However, Iago obscures this parting by implanting the idea into Othello’s mind that Cassio “[stole] away so guilty-like” (III.iii.41). By using the word guilt, Iago is implying that Cassio has done something wrong. Namely, wooing Desdomona. Furthermore, it gives the illusion that Cassio is filled with bad intentions. Likewise, the garden is highly representative of jealousy’s illusion. Often, gardens are full of growth, and the garden used in this context represents Othello’s growing jealousy and the illusions it creates. Similarly, it also represents the growing of Iago’s deceitfulness towards Othello and Cassio.

Moreover, an extremely important symbol is introduced into the play – Desdomona’s handkerchief bestowed upon her by Othello. Envy transforms Desdomona’s handkerchief to resemble reality, instead of Desdomona’s words themselves. In act three, scene five, Desdomona attempts to speak to Othello, however, he will hear nothing of it. He keeps repeating “the handkerchief” as he is consumed with envy (III.iv.92). The napkin begins to embody the actual emotion of jealousy. As Othello grows evermore obsessed with its whereabouts, it begins to shroud over the truth of the situation – Othello begins to think that wherever the handkerchief has been, then Desdomona has been there as well. The actual function of a handkerchief also shows the illusion jealousy may create. Napkins are used to wipe things clean, just as this napkin did symbolically. Desdomona’s napkin wiped Othello’s sanity clean, and jealousy quickly replaced his saneness.

The battle of jealousy over love can be directly examined through Desdomona and Othello. Othello, being enraged with jealousy, often speaks rudely towards his wife, and at one point strikes her across the face. On the other hand, Desdomona remains loyal and loving towards Othello. The actual conflict between the two characters represents the unseen battle between love and jealousy. Othello’s attitude depicts the corrosive nature of jealousy, while Desdomona’s endearing love shows how true love pushes through the abuse. Furthermore, Othello is often shown as an outsider. Not only is he the only person in the play that has darker skin, he feels inferior to Desdomona. This can be observed by how jealous he becomes, individuals who are confident with themselves should not feel the need to succumb to jealousy. This analysis also supports his wife’s endearing love. She is not an outsider, is accepted, and cherished among the other persons in the play. Thus, she is confident in herself and continues to love Othello despite abuses.

Furthermore, jealousy’s transformational attributes can be examined by Othello’s attitude towards his wife at the beginning of the play versus the ending of the play. In the beginning of the play, Othello refers to his wife as “[his] dear love” (II.iii.9). As his jealousy rages on, he vocalizes his envious attitude by saying “ Ay, let her rot, and perish, and be damn’d to- / night; for she shall not live” (IV.i.185-186). This transformation in Othello’s behavior towards his wife shows how powerful jealousy can be. Othello became tormented by the idea of his wife wronging him, fired by the pure power of the emotion envy. The almighty General, Othello, became deceived into truly believing that his wife was a “devil” (IV.i.242). Jealousy’s power grasped Othello, and contorted his views so much as to transform his angelic views of his wife into devilish views. These distorted views of Othello’s directly demonstrates the evil power of envy.

The all-powerful jealousy is also shown as something beyond worldly comparison. Numerous times throughout the play, jealousy is compared to otherworldly creatures. Iago advises Othello to beware of the “green eyed monster” (III.iii.166), and Emilia also defines jealousy as a “monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself” (III.iv.162-163). These comparisons not only show how powerful envy is, but also that it is beyond saying that jealousy is simply a negative emotion. It goes on to represent jealousy as malicious, distorted, and diabolical.

This gradual illusion that jealousy created for Othello ended poorly, as he murdered his wife, ordered the murdering of Cassio, and unintentionally slain Roderigo. He began to trust someone he should not have, he shunned his beloved wife, and lost himself along the way. The play, Othello, The Moor Of Venice, embodies the illusion and power that envy may create if one is not strong-willed against its hold. It shows how even physically strong warriors need good mental protection against its deceptiveness. Lastly, the play shows jealousy as the monster it truly is.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello, The Moor Of Venice. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. 1994 ed. Barnes & Noble. 818-857. Print.

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