Othello Literary Essay Jealousy

Jealousy In Othello


The theme of jealousy is apparent in the Shakespeare’s work entitled Othello. The play of Othello emphasizes on the fate of Othello and other main characters due to jealousy. Jealousy is outlined throughout the play through two main characters Othello and Lago. In the play, Lago portrays his real self which triggers Othello to undergo a total transformation which destroys character’s lives.

Othello depicts how jealousy, especially sexual jealousy, is the most destructive and corruptive emotions.It is jealousy which makes Lago to plot the downfall of Othello. Jealousy as well is the tool used by Lago to arouse the passions of Othello. Other characters such as Bianca and Roderigo portray jealousy at different times in the play. Shakespeare uses his characters to portray the evil facing the society through jealousy. Since jealousy is emotional, it leads to destructive influence within the society.

How jealousy works in Othello

Jealousy is the major tragic flaw which brings about suffering, misfortune and death of Othello. Although this flaw is triggered by the external forces such as witches in Macbeth, jealousy seems to dominate the character of Othello in the Shakespeare’s play. In fact, the main factor which destroys Othello is jealousy. Lago is the main character which triggered jealousy in Othello which eventually resulted to the downfall of Othello.

Jealousy makes Othello to destroy what he loves most in the world. The marriage Desdemona and Othello is based on trust and mutual awareness which appreciates the worth of each couple, a love that is not a sensual element of lust. The love of Desdemona and Othello surpasses the physical barriers based on age, nationality or skin color. However, this love is destroyed soon after jealousy overwhelms the memory of Othello.

Impacts of Jealousy on Characters

Shakespeare uses Lago to reveal how close friends instill jealousy in their friends. It is Lago a close friend of the main character Othello who planted the seed of jealousy and suspicion in the mind of Othello. The problem began when an old friend of Othello, Cassio request Desdemona, wife to Othello to intercede on his behalf to Othello. Desdemona agree to do so. This opened an opportunity for Lago to induce jealousy into subconscious of Othello which he successfully accomplished. Eventually, jealousy made the characters to change in horrific manner.

The irony of the drama is that most indignation of jealousy is expressed over offenses which did not occurred. For instance, the jealousy of Othello towards his wife, the jealousy which existed between Lago and Emilia and Bianca jealousy on Cassio had no facts on the accusations. As a result of jealousy, the drama ends up with tragedies.

Othello Theme of Jealousy

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

Othello is the most famous literary work that focuses on the dangers of jealousy. The play is a study of how jealousy can be fueled by mere circumstantial evidence and can destroy lives. (In Othello, the hero succumbs to jealousy when Iago convinces him that Desdemona has been an unfaithful wife – in the end, Othello murders his wife and then kills himself.) It is interesting that Iago uses jealousy against Othello, yet jealousy is likely the source of Iago's hatred in the first place. In Othello, jealousy takes many forms, from sexual suspicion to professional competition, but it is, in all cases, destructive.

Questions About Jealousy

  1. What language does Shakespeare use to describe jealousy in the play? Do different characters use different metaphors to describe jealousy, or are there common ways of talking about it?
  2. Do other characters besides Othello demonstrate jealousy? In what ways?
  3. Is jealousy portrayed as intrinsically unreasonable? Is there a kind of jealousy that is reasonable, or does the play suggest that all jealousy tends to "mock" the person who is jealous?
  4. Why is sexual jealousy the focus of the play, rather than a different kind of jealousy? What other kinds of jealousy are included in Othello? (If you're thinking of Iago's jealousy of Othello, keep in mind that this, too, could be sexual jealousy.)

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The reason Iago chooses to hurt Othello by making him jealous is that Iago is consumed by jealousy himself.

In Othello, Shakespeare proves that jealousy is inherently unreasonable, as it is founded on the psychological issues of the jealous person, not on the behavior of the one who prompts the jealous feelings.

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