Jealousy In The Characters Of William Shakespeare’s Othello

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Jealousy is one of the most destructive feelings of human’s natures. A character of Shakespeare’s Othello became synonymous with the word jealous husband. Othello is a tragedy of heavy and terrible trials, which was subjected to the sublime and deep love of two beautiful people. The noble moor, which absorbed the culture of the Italian Renaissance, an experienced warrior, wise of the years, and suffering, is powerless in front of intrigue of the vile slanderer. He loses faith in Desdemona and, tormented by the pangs of jealousy, kills her; on the contrary, the love of the young Desdemona withstands all tests, and Desdemona forgives her husband even her death. Famous Russian critic Belinsky 100 years were asking something like that “What is unusual or poetic, for example, and in the content of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’? The moor has killed passionately beloved wife out of jealousy, which is intentionally left him with a cunning villain; and is also not hitherto and but commonly to vulgarity? Have not there been written thousands of novels, novels, dramas, the content of which is a husband or a lover who kills an innocent wife or mistress out of jealousy? But from all these thousands only one ‘Othello’ knows the world and one is surprised to it. It means that the content is not in the external form, not in the clutch of accidents, but in the artist’s plan, in those images, in those shadows and shimmering beauties that seemed to him even before he took up the pen, in a word — in the creative concept.”

R. Wilson in his article “Othello: Jealousy as Mimetic Contagion” says “As a tragedy on the destructive and self-destructive power of male jealous, Othello could more apply be entitled Iago”. In this article author argue that the jealousy initially comes from Iago. Author proves that Iago spread his own venom to everybody, and he is the first victim of it. Author emphasize “five contagiously mimetic triangles” of male rivalry started by Iago; first is between Othello and Cassio for passion, second – Roderigo and Othello for Desdemona hand and bed, third- Desdemona and Brabantio as he betrayed her father, forth – Iago and Othello for Emilia, and fifth Iago and Cassio for lieutenant promotion. Iago character is “representation of jealousy which will stop at nothing less than violence”. Two deep human nature desire such as love, represented by Desdemona, and power, represented by Othello’s generalship are causing jealousy in powerless male as Iago, “who resents the macho prowess sexual and social”.

We deeply agree whit R. Wilson that Iago is the central jealous character in this Shakespeare play. Wilson mentions that Literature since ancient Greek “has been founded in mimesis as the dramatic imitation of conflictual action, because what it essentially imitates is libidinous imitation of itself.” Mimetic desire means learned desire to possess the same as the other, which ultimately leads to violence. All Iago’s emotions take a beginning in his desire of different king of power, and jealousy to Othello, who in Iago eyes has it all. In the plot of this tragedy, Iago is the spring of action, the source of intrigue, and full of jealousy; therefore spread it around as a contagious disease destroying lives. Only Desdemona is free from “green-eye” monster; her innocent nature and pure love to Othello are her protection from monster, but it does not safe her to fall a victim of it. Iago is cad and plebeians by nature; he thinks that he forced to be in the service of the moor. Therefore, he deeply hates Othello for the humiliation he experienced in his sick imagination, and at the same time could not stand to be a witness to the happiness of Othello and Desdemona. As author of article proves that mimetic desire of power and superiority motivates Iago to hate everyone who has superiority over him; further his hate mixed with jealousy create a terrible and destructive force. In the denouement, his own wife exposes him; Iago feels impotent anger and stabs Emilia by dagger. Iago remains alive awaiting trial and execution; a viewer does not see Iago paying for what he did as well as and the end of evil.

In an article Othello: The Man of Judgment author Samuel Kliger argue that main problem of Othello is poor judgment which lead to jealousy. Author shows act-by-act poor decision made by Othello under influence of love. Act 1 author sees as a kind of one act play, complete in itself, it has crisis and happy end. “The only one question left in act one is Othello can exercise a judgment which separates military and domestic duties”. By the end of Act 1 Othello shows confident of his ability to separate those duties, that he is never allow his wife turn his helmet into a kitchen skillet. An author state that at the beginning Othello does have good judgment; it can be proved by the fact that he promoted Cassio instead of Iago. Later he stars to mix military and domestic, we can see it whole Cassio dismissal situation. In his last suicidal speech Othello says about himself “Of one that love not wisely, but too well./Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,/Perplexed in the extreme.” Author argues that Othello got perplex and this leads him to make errors. “Othello lost his particular judicial capacity. In perplexity, he becomes jealous and eventually a murderer.”

We agree with S. Kliger about Othello loss of judgment by being perplexed by Iago. Desdemona’s love for Othello is a discovery that allowed him to look at himself in a new way. But this event, which supposed to strengthen his believe in himself has a flip side. The moor was safely protected by his own strength and courage until he was only a commander. Now, when he became a husband of a Venetian, he became vulnerable as he had new forms of interaction with Venetian society. Exactly this moment Iago choose to begin his attack on Othello. Because Iago was not able to oppose the commander, shackled in impenetrable armor of selfless valor and incorruptible loyalty to his military duty. It is quite another thing to attack the trusting husband of an exquisite Venetian. Othello is a brave warrior, an invincible General and at the same time in civil man/woman he is naïve like a child, unaware of the existence in the world of such human qualities as meanness, cunning, hypocrisy, does not allow the thought of the possibility of deception, treason and therefore so easily believed in the tales of Iago about the betrayal of his faithful Lieutenant Cassio, and the infidelity of his beloved wife Desdemona. With this feeling, with this knowledge he cannot live by pretending that nothing happened. Also, he is not able to turn into an eternal spy, a spy of his own wife. Knowledge about Desdemona infidelity changed Othello. His tenderness turns into rudeness, trusting in suspicion, and now he sees a deception in everything, in every word and gesture precisely because he had never thought of such a thing before. As an S. Kliger states that Othello lost his judicial capacity and that his errors are the product of his essential quality. “Othello accurately describes himself as having been a perplexed man not because he was jealous but jealous because he was perplex.”

In article “Strength’s and Abundance”: a view of Othello author J.K. Walton disagree with idea that “Othello falls through his own weakness, a tendency to self-dramatization and sentimentality which makes him easily jealous.” Walton’s idea that both Othello and Desdemona have very strong personalities. Desdemona for example has enough strength to marry Othello who is very different from her culturally, as well from different social rank and race, which was a huge issue at that time. Othello also has strength personality as we can see for example in Iago part “The Moor is of a free and open nature/ That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;/ And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose/ As asses are.” Author emphasize that Iago is undoubtedly a manipulator, but not the main mover of the tragedy. Wilton states that the point of view at Othello as self-dramatizer can come from Iago eyes, who is cynic, but not Shakespeare; he believes that Othello represent “ the condition in which strength destroy itself”.

The idea of J.K. Walton about destruction of self- strength is very interesting. I do believe that such strong and noble qualities as honesty, openness, modesty, and loyalty can be used against their owner, because the very nature of these qualities does not allow a person to manipulate, get out and so on. It is also important that such people usually see everything through the prism of their worldview, and it can be easily used against them. I do not believe that Iago just manipulator and not a prime mover. Hi is the prime mover. In scene 3 of Act1 Iago pronouns an idea that people create their own destiny. At the same time, he clarifies a characteristic of the person whom he considers exemplary: his actions and feelings should be under the control of a cold mind; this mind, rise a person over an animal, allows distinguish benefit from harm. His arguments prove very expressively that his philosophy is thoroughly rationalistic. Iago behaves like a predator, guided by selfish aspirations. Almost all his thoughts and actions are subordinated to one idea – to achieve success for himself personally, in whatever form, as a promotion, enrichment, etc. The only exception to this rule is his desire to destroy Othello; the play contains no allusion to the fact that Iago was able to get position of the moor, after he will be able to overthrow Othello. It is pure hate with no material rewords at all.

I like the author idea Othello started to “sees trough Iago eyes. That fact that Othello is now jealous, and that he thinks of revenge, of itself makes him akin to his tormentor.”

Works Cited

  1. Wilson, Rob. “Othello: Jealousy as Mimetic Contagion.” American Imago, vol. 44, no. 3/4, 1987, pp. 213–233. JSTOR,
  2. Kliger, Samuel. “Othello: The Man of Judgment.” Modern Philology, vol. 48, no. 4, 1951, pp. 221–224. JSTOR,
  3. Walton, J. K. “’Strength’s Abundance’: A View of Othello.” The Review of English Studies, vol. 11, no. 41, 1960, pp. 8–17. JSTOR,
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