Jealousy As A Motive For Destruction In Shakespeare’s Othello

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous English poets, and playwrights that composes his writing into various themes relating to aspects of human nature such as: deceit, trickery, revenge and jealousy. In his famous tragedy Othello, critics have argued that the importance of his writing has significantly shaped readers like myself and our views to further understand what are the causes behind their immoral actions. Throughout the play, the characteristic traits of jealousy and envy play a prestigious part from beginning to end. Othello reveals that it is evident that jealousy is one of the biggest motivations of destruction within one’s self. This puts the urge on the victim leading to manipulation, revenge, betrayal and even death upon others.

The event leading up to the entire turning points of the play is the murder of Othello’s wife, Desdemona. Shakespeare was inspired to write Othello through an Italian love story by Giraldi Cinthio. The masterpiece was written in England during the tension period of racism. In this atmosphere, Shakespeare writes a drama about a black Arab military general from North Africa, Othello. Othello later falls in love and marries Desdemona, a white daughter of the senator. Every major character in this tragedy is susceptible to weakness, not only the main character himself. The moral lesson of this tragedy is a reminder that even one’s good nature can be taken advantage of for the worst of others benefits. Iago’s hatred for Othello is based on jealousy and assumptions of Othello sleeping with Emilia, Iago’s wife. Iago goes on saying, “But partly led to diet my revenge, for that I do suspect the lusty Moor”.

The drama expresses the lesson through different relationships and emotional attitude responses, a theme as to all humans are vulnerable to self-destruction even when they are in high positions of power and glory. Iago hates both Cassio and Othello so much that he shares, “I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip, Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb”. Shakespeare shapes the characters in the play to demonstrate human vulnerability when personally interacting with one another. All relationships in this tragedy demonstrates insecurities in each person especially Othello himself. Although Othello is a tragic hero, Shakespeare reveals his flaws through showing more of his human side rather than heroic. Shakespeare’s play is also centered around the concept of trust and how pivotal it is to Othello’s flaws. Whether it’s over trusting or having lack of trust, the characters use this to their advantage in a matter of time. Iago, is seen as the villain who uses Othello’s blindness in faith for others to his own advantage. Throughout the play, Iago takes advantage of his reputation and uses the trust he wrongfully gains from everyone to seek revenge on the protagonist Othello and his loved one Desdemona. However, he does not pursue this task alone, he uses people to get exactly what he wants feeling no penitence for whom he hurts along the line. Othello was said to be a man with power in society, he went from having it all, to having nothing by the end of the play. This however would not be possible without the help of our main antagonist Iago, also known as Othello’s standard bearer. Iago is the husband of Emilia who was said to be having an affair with Desdemona because he wants to get even with Othello for possibly sleeping with his wife, “wife for wife”.

Othello is a noble man who possesses all qualities of a tragic hero and a military leader; however, he had allowed for jealousy to get the best of him. Jealousy is the ugliest trait; but Othello acted upon his jealousy and murdered his wife, Desdemona. Human nature is a term used to describe the characteristic of feelings and behavioral traits for humans. Humankind often express different kinds of emotions whether its joy, frustration, hopelessness, remorse and all other forms of emotions depending on the different situations they come into contact with. At the core of these features lies our vulnerabilities. Murdering Desdemona was a very irrational act where Othello lets himself be controlled by jealousy and Iago. Desdemona is the only pure and innocent figure in Othello and that corruption is symbolized in her handkerchief with the strawberries. Her death possibly symbolizes her loyalty to Othello until the end. Before being murdered Desdemona confesses, “I never did offend you in my life; never loved Cassio but with such general warranty of heaven as I might love: I never gave him token”. Othello refuses to believe his wife’s denial of the proof on the handkerchief, saying that Cassio has confessed before he was killed by Iago. Desdemona swears, “I give thee my warrant, assure thee, I do vow friendship to the last article my lord shall never rest; … I shall watch him tame and talk him out of patience”. Hearing of Cassio’s death, Desdemona begins to grieve his death driving Othello into a greater rage. Even on her deathbed, she had denied her husband for being the one that killed her. Emilia, Iago’s wife had asked who murdered her, she refuses to name Othello but responded, “Nobody. I myself.” This quote shows her naiveté and blind trust for Othello. It is Othello’s insecurity that makes him jealous of Cassio and allows for him to believe that Cassio had slept with his wife, Desdemona.

The story ultimately teaches readers that the main idea is featured around the feelings of jealousy and revenge. Already inflamed with the feelings of jealousy, Othello suffocates his wife as she lays in bed. This teaches us how powerful the feeling can be and that it is the dominant motive for action and therefore just as reflected in real life, we bear witness to jealousy influencing the characters of Iago, Brabantio, Roderigo, and Othello. As the play progresses on, we witness the character’s developing assumptions and motives. The change is noticeable mostly in our main protagonist Othello as he changes from being the proud misleading leader in Act 1 to this irrational jealous unstable tragic hero towards the end of the play. Iago shares to the audience his plot to take Othello down since Othello is so gullible, he’ll believe anything because Iago is known for being so “honest”. Iago shares, “Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light”. Iago plots to lead him “by the nose” making our tragic hero believe that his wife has been having an affair with Cassio, one of Othello’s inexperienced soldiers. He [Iago] plants the seeds of jealousy in our main protagonist making the audience realize his plan of evil as a “monstrous birth” and a plan that will bring Othello’s tragic flaw of jealousy to light. To ‘doubt’ means to suspect, and despite what he says, Othello already has strong suspicions, not from seeing anything, but just from listening to Iago. Still worse, Othello is prepared to hear and believe whatever Iago says next. Othello believes that he’s not the jealous type and he believes that Iago is his honest friend, so he believes that Iago couldn’t be lying and he believes that he himself can’t be mistaken. Iago however realizes that the proof of Desdemona supposedly committing infidelity is not needed when her suspicion would be enough potential evidence to drive Othello insane.

In wanting to please her husband, Emilia hands Iago the handkerchief Iago has been looking for in order to convince Othello that Desdemona has been cheating. Unfortunately, Emilia was so naive that she does not identify her husband as the killer to Desdemona’s death until it is too late: “You told a lie, an odious damned lie. Keep in mind that Desdemona had dropped her handkerchief on accident and Emilia her maid had picked it up to give it to her husband, plotting to drop it for Cassio to find. Iago as he plots his scheme says to himself, “As proofs of holy writ. This may do something. Once Othello sees it in Cassio’s possession, he’ll see it as the dominant proof of Desdemona’s fidelity. Iago ruins the lives of other characters in Othello, making people suffer being the brutal and insensitive person he is. This can be shown in the play through a scene that states, “Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners…”. Through this, I believe that it shows how much we should consider the importance of our lives are.

We only have one life, and our health and lives are very important to all of us, and we should take care of it to the best we can. Towards the end of the play, when Othello had seen his own sin for killing his faithful wife, he kills himself finally realizing that he had just lost the one thing in life that mattered the most to him. After his anger has died down, Othello was guilt stricken at the fact that he as a husband had been manipulated into having assumptions about his wife ever being unfaithful. Othello had let Iago prey on his tragic flaw/weaknesses resulting in the cause of him becoming a murderer. The play teaches us that the motive to jealousy is true and that it’s a very human thing, but how we react towards it is upon us, especially in this play that was written by William Shakespeare. In conclusion, I firmly believe it is the behavior of each of the characters that led up to such consequences.

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