Envy in Othello

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Envy
In William Shakespeare’s Othello, desire manifests itself in Iago, compelling readers to see him as if he were a leech; Iago drains Othello of all his moral qualities until he is sucked dry. Similarly, Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice indulges in seeing Antonio sucked dry of money. Both Iago and Shylock are compelled to see their enemies suffer through means that once deprived them, such as Iago being deprived of his rank and Shylock being deprived of money and respect. Although Iago and Shylock both expose their enemies’ weaknesses in order to destroy them, Iago’s tactics are more effective because Shylock becomes incapacitated by his Jewish heritage.

Iago and Shylock both despise a specific character, introducing their own motivations in the plays. Shylock speaks directly to the audience and mentions how he feels about Antonio as soon as the two characters are introduced with one another: “I hate him for he is Christian” (1.3.42). Readers become quickly aware that Shylock is struggling with religious values, pinpointing his explicit reason for holding Antonio in contempt. Mirroring Shylock’s hatred, Iago also explicitly states his motivations, although it is directed towards another character instead of the audience, “I retell thee again and again, I hate the moor” (1.3.408). In effect, whom Iago and Shylock speaks to becomes significant; Shylock speaks directly to the audience, showing how he appeals to himself and an entity that cannot help him pursue his goals. In contrast, Iago speaks with Rodrigo, causing his emotions to influence Rodrigo as well: he influences another character that can help him achieve his goals. Furthermore, Iago and Shylock have a major difference in passion; Iago emphasizes his hate through his repetition, “I retell thee again and again.” Iago continues to intensify his hatred by explaining how his “cause his hearted; thine hath no/ less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge/ against him” (1.3.409). By describing his motivation as “hearted,” and describing how his goal is “revenge,” Iago shows a more passionate personality than Shylock, adding to his effectiveness. He also uses the pronoun, “us,” strengthening his tactics of bringing down Othello through sheer number. Instead of evoking strong emotions through intensive words as Iago, Shylock’s reasoning lacks passion: “He lends out money gratis and brings down/ the rate of usance here in Venice” (1.3.44). Shylock lacks repetition to create a greater emphasis, and his reasons deal with a more passive reasoning versus the aggressive reasoning Iago uses. By analyzing Shylock’s and Iago’s motivations, it can be reasoned that both of these characters abhor higher powers. Shylock despises Antonio because he is Christian, and in the play, Christians have much more authority than Jews. Shylock tells Antonio of the wrongs that a Christian did to a Jew: “You spet on me on Wednesday last…you called me a ‘dog’” (1.3.135). Antonio asserts his dominance over Shylock and responds by saying, “ I am as like to call thee so again/ To spet on thee again” (1.3.140). Antonio’s response shows why Shylock hates Christians; not only is it because they treat him poorly, but Christians place themselves in a higher standing to Jews. Analogously, Iago despises both Cassio and Othello because he is envious of their rank and deprived of power, “In personal suit to make me his lieutenant… I know my price, I am worth no worse a place” (1.1.10). Iago is infuriated that Othello disregards him as a choice for a promotion, and he goes on to criticize Cassio, who is now ranked higher than Iago: “A fellow almost damned in a fair wife/ that never set a squadron in the field/ Nor the division of a battle knows/ More than a spinster” (1.1.22). Iago instantaneously loathes a man who is promoted beyond his rank and his jealousy becomes apparent. Since Shylock and Iago are both motivated to destroy their enemy, they construct their plots by exposing...
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