Jealousy takes many forms and sometimes it is harmless while at other times it can be destructive. In William Shakespeare’s play “Othello” a man named Iago hates and is jealous of the protagonist Othello because Othello has not promoted him to position of Lietunant, so he decides to try and kill Othello. However, he first convinces Roderigo to help him because Roderigo is in love with Othello’s wife Desdemona and Iago promises that he can get him together with Desdemona. With Roderigo’s help, Iago is able to plot a series of events which eventually leads to convincing Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio, and this not only causes conflict between husband and wife, but leads to Othello’s desire to kill Cassio. Thus, Shakespeare suggests that when people are conflicted with jealousy, they may hurt others and even cause their own destruction. At the beginning of the play, Iago feels jealous towards Othello and tells Roderigo that “I hate the Moor: And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets He has done my office: I know not if’t be true; But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, Will do as if for surety.”(1.3.12).
Iago first states that he hates Othello for passing him over for a promotion but he hears rumors that his wife Emilia might have had a fling with Othello. Even though Iago is not sure if the rumors are true, he still decides to try and disrupt Othello’s life. This reveals the buildup of jealousy and hate within him, and even without any clear reason to disrupt Othello’s life, he feels the need to do create evil rumors about him in order to ruin his reputation. Moreover, Iago manipulates Roderigo in order to cause confusion and cause jealousy in Othello’s mind. Iago tells Roderigo that “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.” (1.3.358). Roderigo is jealous of Othello marrying Desdemona, the woman he loves and is now blinded by love so believes whatever Iago tells him. Indeed, Iago sees this opportunity and decides to take advantage and use Roderigo to plot a series of events that will lead Othello into Iago’s trap.
Shakespeare shows that due to Iago’s evil and jealous nature, he does not want happiness for anyone and therefore uses people as tools or toys for his own purpose. Finally, Iago uses Cassio and Desdemona to make Othello think and suspect that Desdemona is cheating on him. Iago thinks to himself “if I can fasten but one cup upon him, with that which he hath drunk to-night already, He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence as my young mistress’ dog.”(2.3.9). Iago gets Cassio drunk so he will get in a fight because he wants Cassio to be in trouble with Othello and while that is happening he knows Desdemona will intervene and try to help Cassio. Iago’s actions show that he is so jealous of Cassio’s position that he is willing to do anything to make Cassio look suspicious. Iago’s capability to portray Cassio as unreliable and untrustworthy reveals the extremes people can go to because of jealousy. Iago is willing to exploit everyone just to get even with Othello proving that jealousy can actually lead humans to abandon their logic.
As Iago’s plans to get Cassio killed continue, he successfully creates the seeds of jealousy in Othello too. Ironically, he even says to Othello that “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (3.3.15). Iago pretends to be on the side of Othello and warns him not to be too jealous because it will lead to self-destruction. As a result, Othello naively trusts a person who is trying to lead him into self-destruction yet he does not realize this and continues to step on the traps that Iago sets up. Moreover, Othello falls deeper and deeper into Iago’s master plan and begins to doubt Desdemona even though he at first wants proof of her affair. Othello reminds himself “No…my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, is free of speech, sings, plays and dances well; where virtue is, these are more virtuous: …No, Iago; ill see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove: and on the proof.
There is no more but this, away at once with love or jealousy!” (3.3.31). Othello refuses to be destroyed by jealousy because he can clearly see that Desdemona chose him out of love and not because of anything else, but he feels like he needs proof from Desdemona that she is not cheating on him to be truly convinced. This passage shows that even though Othello claims that he will not be conflicted by jealousy, step by step he is moving away from his claim and becomes jealous and filled with doubts. Shakespeare warns that jealousy has the capacity to make a person forget the reality and see people and situations clearly because it is such a strong emotion Finally, Emilia warns Desdemona about Othello’s jealousy as she says “but jealous souls will not be answer’d so; / They are not ever jealous for the cause, / But jealous for they are jealous: ‘tis a monster/ Begot upon itself, born on itself.”(3.4.3). Emilia understands that jealousy is like a “monster” that comes out of nowhere and becomes worse and worse over time.
This suggests that Othello’s mind is being controlled and taken over by the “monster” and the jealousy in his mind can keep growing until it is finally out of control. In Othello’s time, men owned women and an affair would damage a man’s reputation and ego more than today. Since Othello is a Moor, the thought of his wife cheating on him is even worse than if he was Venetian since Desdemona is his and she owes him loyalty. Near the end of the play, Desdemona discovers that her handkerchief is missing and asks Emilia where her handkerchief is. Emilia does not know and Desdemona says “Believe me, I had rather have lost my purse / Full of crusadoes: and, but my noble Moor / is true of mind and made of no such baseness / as jealous creatures are, it were enough / /to put him to ill thinking.” (3.4.7). Desdemona knows that the handkerchief is an important gift from Othello and losing it might cause doubts in Othello’s mind about her loyalty.
Unfortunately, Othello is set up by Iago and finds the handkerchief and is now convinced of his wife’s unfaithful character, so he murders Desdemona. After strangling Desdemona he says “Behold, I have a weapon; / a better never did itself sustain / upon a soldier’s thigh: I have seen the day, / that, with this little arm and this good sword, / I have made my way through more impediments / than twenty times you stop: but, O vain boast!” (5.2.55). Othello understands after killing her, that Desdemona’s death was pointless as he is now alone without the love of his life. By the time Othello realizes that he was set up by Iago and Desdemona did not cheat on him, Othello cannot tolerate the guilt of killing her and decides to commit suicide. Before stabbing himself he says “speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate / nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak / of one that loved not wisely but too well; / of one not easily jealous, but being wrought / Perplex’d in the extreme.” (5.2.341-345).
Othello becomes the victim of Iago’s cruelty because he is unable to control jealousy, and he ends up being his own worst enemy as his jealousy becomes so powerful that he kills because of it. Shakespeare shows that jealousy can destroy not only others’ lives but can lead to one’s own self-destruction as people cannot see clearly and think rationally when they let such a strong emotion over-take them. Therefore, Shakespeare warns readers that they must control the jealousy in their lives because if they do not, they will destroy the relationships with those around them and themselves. Jealousy is one of the strongest emotions and it can come easily when a person feels like they deserve better, as Iago does, or when they are too possessive over another person, as Othello is over Desdemona. Either way, jealousy causes people to misread reality and act irrationally.
Jealousy in Othello
In Shakespeare's Othello, Iago plots Othello's destruction when he is passed over for a promotion. Iago tells Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him and provides
circumstantial evidence for this. Othello becomes full of anger and jealousy and kills Desdemona. Othello later finds that Desdemona was not unfaithful and commits suicide. Jealousy appears many times in several characters of Othello. Jealousy leads to the ultimate downfall of several characters in Othello such as Roderigo, Othello, and Iago.
Roderigo shows jealousy throughout Othello, and is eventually killed by Iago, as a result. Roderigo is enlisted by Iago to help him in his plot to ruin Othello. Roderigo was a possible suitor for Desdemona until she married Othello on her own. This fills Roderigo with jealousy toward Othello. For this reason, Roderigo is eager to help Iago with his plan. He first helps Iago in telling Brabantio of Desdemona's secret marriage to Othello. Roderigo rudely wakes Brabantio one night saying, "What, ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!" (1.1.78). He then provides assistance to Iago by starting a brawl in which Cassio wounds another man. As a result, Othello relieves Cassio of his command. Roderigo's jealousy finally catches up with him when Iago asks him to kill Cassio. Iago tells him that Desdemona will sleep with him if he will kill Cassio. Roderigo's selfishness is apparent and he attempts to kill Cassio. His attempt to kill Cassio fails when his mail shirt saves him. In the process, Roderigo is also wounded. Iago comes along later and finishes him off. Although he is not the only victim of jealousy in this play, Roderigo is eventually killed by this emotion.
Othello is also a victim of jealousy in this play. He is overcome with jealousy when Iago tells him of Desdemona's unfaithfulness. Othello falls right into Iago's trap when he hears this news. Othello trusts Iago too much and becomes easily convinced of this accusation. All he can think about is getting revenge on Desdemona. Because of his jealousy, Othello is easily swayed into believing Iago's flimsy evidence. Once presented with this evidence, Othello becomes furious with Desdemona. He ultimately decides that Desdemona must die and makes no attempt to speak with her about the accusation. He says to Iago, "Get me some poison, Iago, this night. I'll not expostulate with her, / lest her body and beauty unprovide my mind again. This night, Iago!" (4.1.186-87). This clearly expresses his rage and jealousy once finally convinced of Desdemona's actions. Othello's mind is taken over by jealousy and he becomes irrational. He states, "I will chop her into messes! Cuckold me!" (4.1.182). In the end, he realizes that jealousy gets the best of him, although it is too late.
Iago is the most jealous character in Othello. His jealousy results in the death of almost all the characters in this play. Othello passes over Iago for a promotion and Iago becomes furious. Iago develops an elaborate plan that will eventually bring him revenge on Othello. He starts out by recruiting Roderigo to help him. They break the news to Brabantio that his daughter secretly married Othello. He says to Roderigo, "Call up her father / Rouse him. Make after him, poison his delight" (1.1.68-69). Iago's determination to bring down innocent people to get to Othello is displayed here. His next task is approaching Othello to tell him that Desdemona has been cheating on him with Cassio. Jealousy spreads to Othello as Iago's plan starts taking effect. To provide evidence for this accusation, Iago plants a handkerchief of Desdemona's in Cassio's house. Othello's anger and insecurity allow him to be persuaded very easily by this flimsy evidence that he believes proves Desdemona's guilt. In order for this plan to work out, Iago had to kill his wife, Cassio, and Roderigo. Much like Roderigo and Othello, Iago's'jealousy catches up with him and he is tortured to death for the murder of his wife.
Jealousy is an everpresent trait in Othello. It consumes several characters and eventually brings them to their untimely death. Roderigo's jealousy brings about his own murder, Othello's jealousy forces him to commit suicide, the ultimate act of selfishness and Iago's jealousy affords him death by torture. Unfortunately, the wicked emotion, jealousy, not only resulted in the deaths of three of Othello's main characters, it caused the untimely deaths of innocent characters as well.