JEALOUSY IN OTHELLO
This paper was written for Dr. Brevik’s English 1102 class.
Shakespeare is prominent in his use of recurring themes
throughout his works, particularly those of love, death, and betrayal. All these themes are present in Othello. Most paramount, however, is jealousy. Jealousy runs the characters’ lives in Othello from the beginning of the play, when Roderigo is envious of Othello because he wishes to be with Desdemona, and to the end of the play, when Othello is furious with envy because he believes Cassio and Desdemona have been engaging in an
affair. Some characters’ jealousy is fashioned by other characters. Iago is involved in much of this, creating lies and implementing misleading situations. He is consumed with jealousy of Cassio and masked with hatred of Othello because he was not
chosen as lieutenant, Cassio was. Iago is selfish in that he wants everyone to feel as he does so he engineers the jealousy of other characters. Iago is a man blinded by envy and anger, with a goal in mind for everyone to become equally jealous,
which aim he completes through his betrayal and manipulation of characters, specifically Othello.
Shakespeare’s Othello begins with the confinement of
Roderigo in Iago. Roderigo so desperately loves Desdemona
and he pays Iago to woo her away from Othello. This scene is significant in that it immediately portrays Iago as a villain. Along with his actions, what Iago says also conveys him as a manipulative character. Iago has constructed a plan to exploit Othello as a thief by saying that Othello has stolen Desdemona’s heart using witchcraft. Iago persuades Roderigo to confront her
father, Brabantio. He tells Roderigo, “Call up her father, Rouse him…poison his delights…do, with like timorous accent and dire yell,” (I. i. 64-65, 72). Iago is actually not particularly concerned with what is in Roderigo’s heart at all, meaning Iago does not care that Roderigo loves Desdemona and wishes to be with her. His intentions are not to help Roderigo seek Desdemona but to have Brabantio after Othello because it will cause him, Othello, distress.
Jealousy in Othello
Iago is very good at saying the right things to people, misleading them to get the reaction he wants out of them. He is clever in his diction to avoid confrontation that can easily erupt. Haim Omer and Marcello Da Verona in their article “Doctor
Iago’s treatment of Othello” provide an example of Iago’s manipulation when he and Roderigo confront Brabantio about his daughter. Brabantio does not believe what the two say about
Desdemona, calling it absurd, and he becomes angry because
he has been woken up in the middle of the night. Omer and de Verona recognize that Roderigo immediately starts to explain and justify his accusations, which only angers Brabantio even more. Iago, on the other hand, responds by actually complimenting Brabantio (1). Brabantio yells, “Thou art a villain” to which Iago responds, “You are a senator” (I. i. 115-116). The father is taken aback by this surprising comment and it causes him to step back and re-examine the situation, which eases his anger and causes him to believe the two storytellers, especially when he finds Desdemona missing from her bed chamber
Along with his word choice, Iago is clever at the timing of
what he says. He knows exactly what to say and when to say it to get a rouse out of whomever he wishes. He exercises this
particularly well with Roderigo and Othello. Marcia Macaulay in her article “When Chaos Is Come Again: Narrative and Narrative Analysis in Othello” says that “[Iago] commences with an imperative, follows with a question in which he answers himself, and ends with a bold assertion” (3-4). An example of Iago’s timing is when he speaks to Roderigo of the suspicions regarding
Desdemona’s love for Othello. “Mark me with what violence she first loved the Moor but for bragging and telling her fantastical lies. To love him still for...
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Macaulay, Marcia. “When Chaos Is Come Again: Narrative
and Narrative Analysis in Othello.” Style 39 (2005): 113
McGraw Hill, 2006. 1012-1095.
Zender, Karl. “The Humiliation of Iago.” Studies in English
Literature 34 (1994): 323-330
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