B. C. Forbes, a Scottish financial journalist who founded Forbes Magazine, once said, "Jealousy... is a mental cancer." Jealousy is one of the strongest and the most uncontrollable emotions. It can alter anyone's perspective and lead them to do unspeakable actions, ones that they would never do under any other circumstances. Envy and jealousy have always been around, as most all people are not completely satisfied; they want something more. In Othello, by William Shakespeare, Iago is seen frustrated is seen to be frustrated to see a General by the name of Othello give the lieutenant position to a great scholar, Cassio. He believes that he is the more qualified man as he has proved himself in battle, where all of Cassio’s credentials are just on paper. He envies Cassio’s position and for this vows to take revenge on Othello for granting him it. He uses his malicious wits throughout the story to inflict jealousy and envy in the minds of both Othello and a friend named Roderigo. Through this he able to destroy the lives and carry out his revenge on everyone around him. In this play, Shakespeare use the character’s actions to demonstrate the jealousy and envy corrupt mankind.
Othello displays intense jealousy in this play, that grows and grows inside him until he single handedly destroys his own life. Iago is seen plotting his revenge for Othello, demonstrating that he will not stop until he drives him into the ground. He starts this plan by implanting seeds of doubt into Othello’s mind concerning Desdemona’s loyalty to him. At first he doubts him, not believing a woman as lovely as Desdemona would hurt him in such as way. However, with persistence Iago finally gets Othello to seriously consider what he is being told and reacts uncontrollably, “Oh, that the slave had forty thousand lives! “One is too poor, too weak for my revenge. Now do I see ’tis true. Look here, Iago, all my fond love thus do I blow to heaven. 'Tis gone. Arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hell!”(III,iii, 462-467). All Iago does is tell Othello stories that suggest Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair; he gives no proof or reason that would make a rational man believe him. Othello, is not a rational man though when he is controlled by jealousy. He has lost the great love that he and Desdemona displayed. From here on out Othello continues to become more paranoid regarding his wife’s love life. Not once, to the neutral reader, does he see any concrete proof. However, his jealousy gets the best of him and he makes the apparent evidence fit his case against Desdemona. This is most evident in Act IV where Othello overhears as conversation between Iago and Cassio, where Cassio laughs and jokes about his love with what Othello assumes to be Desdemona. Despite this thought, in reality Iago’s manipulations where paying off as he was really talking about a prostitute named Bianca. This is tipping point for Othello where he now starts to think murderous thoughts, ”Ay, let her rot and perish and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned to stone. I strike it and it hurts my hand”(IV,i, 140-143). The tragedy in Othello’s actions is that Desdemona is the most perfect of wives who loves him dearly, and even stick with him during this period of insanity until she she gets murdered by the man she loved. Jealousy has clearly corrupted Othello past the point of repair as he is becoming increasing cruel. He even states that he likes the appeal of strangling Desdemona in her bed because it would be justice as she slept with Cassio in it. Through the actions of Othello, Shakespeare shows just how dangerous feeling jealousy can be as it brought him to kill his innocent wife.
A similar fate also comes to Roderigo who is desperate to be with Desdemona. Again, Iago manipulates him into believing that he can attain her love only if he follows his orders. First he uses this envy and desire to get Roderigo to embarrass and rid Cassio of his position as lieutenant. In order to do this he first gets Cassio drunk, then Roderigo to chase and anger him into doing something stupid. Not too much later Cassio enters onto the stage chasing threatening and hitting Roderigo, “Dost thou prate, rogue? (strikes him)”(II,iii, 112). This action disgraces Cassio, as it appears he is just ill-mannered and drunk and therefore pays for it his position as lieutenant. This greatly pleases Iago, who is now the favorite for the vacant position, but also demonstrates how corrupt envy has made Roderigo. Just because Iago told him that Cassio would soon be with Desdemona as her marriage with Othello is doomed, he was on board to ruin a man’s career that truly had done nothing to harm him. This corruption continues and again Cassio is the victim. After dishonoring Cassio, Roderigo briefly is angered with Iago as Desdemona is still firmly in love with Othello. Yet he soon agrees to kill Cassio in a fight as Iago’s excellent manipulation skills are again displayed, “I have no great devotion to the deed and yet he hath given me satisfying reasons. 'Tis but a man gone. Forth, my sword: he dies”(V,i, 8-10). Roderigo seems far too relaxed here, he is about to kill man but just shrugs it off as if it were no big deal. His envy for Cassio in terms of most likely to get Desdemona has pushed him to extraordinary lengths. He is willing to kill an innocent man, without any proof other than Iago’s word, for personal gain. This is corruption at its worst, perfectly displayed by Shakespeare, who makes it clear that envy is a dangerous emotion just like jealousy and should not be acted upon.
Finally, the character that planted the seeds of envy and jealousy in both Othello and Roderigo, Iago also suffers from envy and jealousy along with a great deal of anger. He essentially is responsible for all the deaths in the play including Desdemona, Roderigo, Emilia, and Othello. He manipulates everyone into carrying out his plan to bring down both Cassio and Othello. After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear that he is too familiar with his wife. He hath a person and a smooth dispose to be suspected, framed to make women false. 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. I have ’t. It is engendered! Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light”(I,iii, 332-341). Iago demonstrates how corrupt he truly is here. he believes the best way to fix his life is to ruin everyone else’s. He has absolutely no mercy for the characters of Othello and Roderigo; they are like puppets to him in his grand plan. He is comfortable with causing the deaths of many others. This shows how he doesn’t have human emotions as any normal man, not fueled by envy and anger, would feel bad for killing people even if they caused them some pain, let alone an innocent Desdemona and his wife Emilia. Iago’s plan does work out at first with Othello dishonoring himself by killing Desdemona, and himself still lieutenant. However, his world quickly comes crumbling down when Emilia puts the pieces together and reveals him for he monster he is. Iago is enraged and also proceeds to kill her. Still, everything he had planned out so perfectly to achieve went away in a split second. The only possible victory he had was against Othello who was stripped of the general position. Lodovico proceeds to also name Cassio ruler of Cyprus and Iago to a lifetime of torture, “You must forsake this room and go with us. Your power and your command is taken off and Cassio rules in Cyprus. For this slave, if there be any cunning cruelty that can torment him much and hold him long, it shall be his”(V,ii, 346-352). Iago will now live out the rest of his days in prison being tortured on the line of death but not allowed to cross it. Truthfully it is the punishment he deserves and he only person he can point to is himself and all his corruption. In this most extreme example of corruption, Shakespeare, reveals that no matter how much envy, jealousy, or hate one may have, it is never worth it to submit or act in accordance to it as it will eventually catch up to you.
In this play, Shakespeare Demonstrates the disastrous effects that can occur when acting with jealousy and envy through the actions of the characters. Othello is willing to murder his wife, who he has no solid proof even had an affair, just because he cannot contain his jealousy and therefore cannot think rationally. Roderigo also spares no sympathy for Cassio, whom he attempts to murder in cold blood, only because Iago told him he is more likely to be with Desdemona after she leaves Othello. Iago demonstrates a combination of these two emotions and doesn’t stop until he destroys all of those around him, but also himself. Through these characters, Shakespeare wishes to explain with the reader that one should be mindful when dealing with jealousy and envy as it can lead us to be irrational. Therefore, we all should try to act only on reason as it is guaranteed to have the best results.