Portrayal Of Different Types Of Jealousy In Shakespeare’s Othello

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

As a human, everyone consists of emotions that cannot be ignored, while some are positive others are not, it is believed that jealousy is often the secondary emotion to the primary emotion of anger or fear. Although jealousy is a common emotion, its power of destruction is often neglected. As John Dryden pointed out, that “Jealousy is the jaundice of the soul”, where the natural human emotions cannot be forgone, and that it is often the redirection of the conscious mind to answer the needs of the unconscious mind. In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello, a psychological analysis approach is used to observe the rationale behind the behaviors caused by numerous types of jealousy and its association with love, power, and betrayal.

While the term jealousy often leads on the idea of a romantic conflict, it can actually be presented and felt in a variety of emotions. The nature of jealousy often derives from the subconscious feeling of inferiority, especially in an environment that is statutorily competitive. In Othello, the character Iago portrays the perfect example of feeling envious due to his social standing. Introduced with a monologue, Iago is discontented by Othello’s decision of promoting Cassio as lieutenant instead of him. Immediately, Iago continues on about his greater qualification than Cassio, and proceeds to admit to his true intentions behind serving Othello as “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.”, and that his loyalty to Othello is only temporary. While Iago intends to take advantage of Othello during his service, his malice intent sprouts from his envy towards Cassio’s new and higher rank. Both Iago’s conscious and unconscious mindset is explained by the “Inferiority Complex” framed by a psychologist named Alfred Adler. In said complex, Adler describes that the behavioral aspects of this type of jealousy is caused by the attempt to compensate for the inferior feeling that is present. Even though this theory perfectly explains Iago’s subconscious, it also further provides early insight on his development towards more irrational and dangerous behavior. While Othello himself did not directly intend to anger or harm Iago, his negligence to provide Iago what he wanted becomes a direct catalyst to Iago’s destructive behavior. Iago’s physical position in society is seen as below both Cassio and Othello, therefore his inferiority stems directly from his physical status and lack of power, which further lead his jealousy in the direction of the inferiority complex.

Aside from the envy of status and power, the second most common type of jealousy is of possessions and happiness. While people are often jealousy of others’ wealth and inanimate objects, possession in the case of Othello does not limit itself to just that. Alongside Iago, another recurring character is Roderigo, a close friend of Iago. His significance lies with his persistent love for Desdemona, Othello’s wife, and due to the lack of recognition and love in return, Roderigo is blinded by jealousy and becomes a sacrifice to satisfy Iago’s jealous desires. Following Iago’s instructions, Roderigo decides to wake up Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, in the dead of the night by calling out, “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.”, revealing Othello’s hidden marriage with Desdemona to her father. While Roderigo’s actions seem petty and not physically damaging, the act of alarming Desdemona’s father reveals the sprout of his jealous spiral. Similar to the yearning to possess certain object, Roderigo’s jealousy roots from the inability to obtain the object, in this situation, Desdemona. Unfortunately, jealousy is known as the love destroyer, and deemed as one of the most destructive passion of human emotions. Those masked by this type of jealousy has the tendency to destroy the object of obsession that he or she cannot have. Hence, jealousy of possession and its obliteration of the rationale is what makes this human emotion so fearful and evil.

The last and seemingly most common type of jealousy is interlaced with the intimate bonds between two or more people, it is also the most fatal and easily developing type of jealousy. In Othello, the most prominent conflict of jealousy revolves around the once loving marriage of Othello and Desdemona. As the play progresses Othello experiences dramatic emotional changes due to the manipulation of Iago. Iago continues to misguide Othello into distrusting Desdemona, his suspicions begin to develop when Iago falsely accuse Cassio of having an affair with Desdemona by implying that if “Desdemona did deceive her father, marrying you Othello…”, hence deceiving Othello himself would be just as simple. Iago cleverly plants the seed of jealousy, and like wildfire, it spreads and grows until it is uncontainable. Just prior to Iago revealing his accusations, Othello claims that he will not fall prey to the torment of jealousy, but in no time, his suspicions doubles as his doubts prevents him from rationally confronting either Desdemona or Cassio. The type of jealousy Othello is experiencing is also the most threatening and destructive due to its very likely potential to spiral into “Pathological Jealousy”. Another term for this is morbid jealousy, where one person in the relationship is in constant suspicion of the other being sexually unfaithful. Morbid jealousy is extremely dangerous as it is an actual psychopathic disorder, where the sufferer experiences extreme irrational behavioral misconduct. In Othello’s case, his moderate jealousy is intentionally converted to pathological jealousy as Iago continuously create false evidence and encouraging Othello’s suspicions. His fear of Desdemona’s physical betrayal is explained as “…a defense mechanism that shields against deep-rooted fear…”, where in truth, he is afraid and insecure in this relationship. Those that experience this form of jealousy in a relationship is often in an relationship imbalance, meaning that those involved in said relationship is not on the same level, which cause an unbalanced emotional proportionality.

Although the human instinct of feeling emotions cannot be neglected, certain individuals are more prone to the impact of a more negative emotion. While psychologists have reassured the importance of jealousy in terms of social bonding, the lack of control and discipline of one’s own emotion can quickly turn disastrous. Jealousy does not only appear in romantic matters, in this tragic play Shakespeare cleverly portrays the different types of jealousy through power struggle, love and betrayal. While jealousy is a trait that is often frowned upon within relationships, in the end it is still a natural human instinct. The only solution to prevent an Othello tragedy from occurring is to seek the root cause of the emotion present, and approach the issue in a rational and conscious matter.

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