Depiction of the Concept of Jealousy in Othello

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The compelling, universal theme of jealousy is built into human nature and is a fundamental element of our emotions. Once the seeds of doubt are planted in one’s mind, it is easy to see what one suspects to be true. Manipulation is one of the main components of jealousy which is shown throughout the whole play, Othello. A manipulative mindset is driven and produced by ones envious, and jealous motives. When it comes to jealousy, the characters have a strongly accurate perception about human nature, leaving individuals to easily get manipulated. Jealousy is emphasized to be naturally consuming and a habit of which there is no escape, making it a dangerous trap to fall into leading individuals to continuously manipulate others. The play Othello by William Shakespeare demonstrates the dangerous actions and behaviours that jealousy invokes, insinuating that jealousy leads one to their self destruction.

Firstly, when it comes to jealousy, the characters have a strongly accurate perception about human nature, leaving individuals to easily get manipulated. They tend to first believe every piece of new information they hear. Roderigo desperate for Desdemona’s love gives Iago the chance to use him as a tool.

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“Thou art sure of me. Go, make money. I have told thee often,

and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor. My cause

is hearted; thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive

in our revenge against him” (Shakespeare 1.3.357-360).

Iago expresses his hatred of Othello towards Roderigo, in an attempt to get Roderigo to side with him. Iago urges Roderigo to help him take down Othello and in return he will have Desdemona’s love all to himself. Roderigo is manipulated into thinking if he made all the money he will have Desdemona all to himself which does not happen because Iago just wanted all the money for himself. At the end of the play, Roderigo dies as a tool of Iago as he did all his dirty work and got nothing in return.When Iago tells Othello about the affair, Othello is baffled. He expresses, “Haply, for I am black, And have not those soft parts of conversation, That chamberers have, or for I am declined” (3.3.263-265). Othello claims that Iago is an honest man and would never lie, therefore leading Othello to fall into Iago’s trap about the affair between Cassio and Desdemona. Othello begins to believe everything Iago says and his accusations with or without proof. Since he believes everything Iago says, he starts to listen to his opinion on how to handle the situations. Othello starts to doubt himself and his insecurities, claiming that everything is happening because of his race and colour. Othello says he does not have manners like the courtiers do, meaning that supposedly black people are rude. Bianca becomes furious when she saw the handkerchief. She expresses:

“Let the devil and his dam haunt you! What did you mean

by that same handkerchief you gave me even now? I was

a fine fool to take it… This is some minx’s token, and I must

take out the work?” (4.1.142-147)

Othello suggests, “By heaven, that should be my handkerchief!” (4.1.150). Iago places Desdemona’s special handkerchief given to her by Othello in Cassio’s room where he gifts it to Bianca. Othello is manipulated by Iago, his accusations started to make more sense and pieces are slowly coming together while witnessing one of Iago’s many plans. This allows Othello to have a strong belief towards the affair. Othello feels more rage after what he sees because he gifted the handkerchief to Desdemona and it ends in Bianca’s hand. After Othello believes he witnesses proof with his own eyes, he goes to Iago to start planning the murder of both Desdemona and Cassio due to jealousy. By Iago manipulating Othello, he influences Othello to murder his wife. Therefore, at the end of the play, all the jealousy leads to the downfall of two characters Othello and Desdemona as both of them die.

Secondly, jealousy is emphasized to be naturally consuming and a habit of which there is no escape, making it a dangerous trap to fall into leading individuals to continuously manipulate others. Iago expresses:

“I hate the Moor;…

He’s done my office. I know not if ’t be true;…

He holds me well;

The better shall my purpose work on him.

Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now:

To get his place, and to plume up my will…

After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear

That he is too familiar with his wife.” (1.3.372-385)

In Act one, Scene three, Iago speaks about the start of his mastermind plans and explains how he will manipulate everyone to get his way. He expresses to himself how he plans to manipulate Othello because there is a rumor that Othello slept with Bianca, and Iago wants Cassio’s lieutenant position. Once he starts his mastermind plan, he cannot escape the state he is in, he got himself into a serious risky trap where it is difficult to get out of. His jealousy towards Cassio and Othello makes him a manipulative individual where it becomes like a drug and his addiction to it is very strong. To get everything to fall in place and work properly, Iago coveys:

“If I can fasten but one cup upon him…

He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence…

If consequences do but approve my dream,

My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream” (2.3.40-55).

Iago tries to manipulate Cassio by getting him more drinks so that he can start a brawl with Roderigo who is also very drunk. This gives Iago a chance to win over the lieutenant position if Cassio gets in trouble and loses his position. Iago’s intention is also to get Desdemona to back up Cassio when Othello removes him. Iago shares his thoughts, “Look at your wife; observe her well with Cassio;… In Venice they do not let heaven see the pranks, They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience” (3.3.193-203). Iago embeds inappropriate images of Cassio and Desdemona in Othello’s mind. He wants Othello to think that his wife is betraying their marriage, and wants him to take action towards Cassio. Since Othello thinks Iago is an honest man he believes everything Iago has to say. Iago is so deep into manipulating others, he does not realize that he is slowly digging his own grave. Once everyone realizes what drama Iago has done and stirred up, he is sentenced to torture in prison. All his manipulations led to his own self-destruction.

The concept of jealousy is heavily depicted by Shakespeare in his play, Othello, insinuates that jealousy leads one to their downfall. The characters within this play tend to believe every piece of information they hear, leaving them to easily get wield. Jealousy becomes a drug, once one is jealous, they have trouble exiting that state, leading them to manipulate others to get their way. However, Shakespeare portrays the characters’ acts of jealousy as their ladder to their own self-destruction. All the characters suffered losses at the end of the play, as a result of jealousy.


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