The Jealous Poison
“The jealous poison their own banquet and then eat it.” This line from Washington Irving exemplifies the underlying theme throughout William Shakespeare’s Othello. Almost every action in the play is made out of pure jealousy. Although these covetous feelings stem from different reasons and evolve in different ways between the characters, the outcome is always disastrous. All of the characters seem to fall into a continuous circle of jealousy, with Iago at the center drawing everyone in just to break each one down.
Throughout Othello, Iago acts as the mastermind and all of the other characters prove to be his puppets. Motivated by relentless jealousy over Othello’s high position and of his lieutenant, Cassio, Iago plots to ruin Othello and will do all in his power to bring him down. He obviously has no feelings of guilt or sorrow for any of his actions and is so overwhelmed by his emotions that he is able to manipulate everyone surrounding himself.
He does not care about anyone that surrounds him. He is simply engulfed with fury by the green-eyed monster and cannot escape his emotions. He completely takes advantage of the dope Roderigo who also is fighting back his envy for Othello. But Roderigo’s jealousy comes from his affection for Othello’s wife, Desdemona. This lustful attraction, along with Iago’s spiteful persuasion causes Roderigo to do almost anything to ruin Othello. Iago even plans the murder of the innocent and loyal Cassio through Roderigo but when plans go sour he murders his own assistant to better his own chances of staying under the radar. Though he is finally discovered after it is far too late, he never really escapes his jealousy.
These feelings of resentment had far reaching effects. Not only did Iago bring down the great Othello, but everyone else in his path as well. He manipulated Othello into believing horrible lies about Cassio. Though Cassio had his own share of alcoholic problems, Iago only added to them and staged a fight that led to the end of Cassio’s career. But as this was not enough for Iago, he made sure Othello hated Cassio as well by persuading him of his wife’s adultery that never really existed. With this false anger, Othello orders the death of his only true friend. Cassio is oblivious to all of this. But even more naive was Iago’s wife, Emilia. Always so sweet and loving, she never suspects her husband of anything and gives him the main tool to set the scheme into full swing without even knowing what she has done. With a simple handkerchief from her mistress, Desdemona, she is able to make the infidelity seem true. Though her final realization of what she has done ultimately leads to her murder by her own husband, she always remained loyal and ultimately unveiled her husband’s lies.
Of course the tragic effects of the jealousy hit hardest with Othello and Desdemona. With their love so pure it is no wonder that they caused so much envy. But with the heartless villain Iago around, their fairy tale could last no more than a few weeks. Iago forces Othello, a man who does not usually get jealous, to become overcome with the idea that his wife has eyes for Cassio alone and though it takes some persuading, he is finally convinced. Though Othello wants to believe that his wife would never do something so awful, he is forced to let his emotions get the best of him and though he loves his wife, she reaps the wrath of his covetous emotions. As Othello does not confront her with his feelings she cannot deny anything until it is too late and as he smothers her, it becomes obvious she is angrier that he could believe her to be unfaithful than of what he is actually doing.
As Iago spins his web of distrust, every character sees the consequences. Nothing but evil can come from the jealous. Othello proves the great force that jealousy can have on a person. And as it slowly makes everyone’s seemingly perfect world crumble to the ground, Iago feels no shame or guilt. He succeeded in making the life of the noble Othello crash and the people who got in his way were simply sacrifices he found to be necessary. So “beware, my Lord, of Jealousy. It is the green-eyed .. monster”. (Scene 3, Act 3)
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