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Herrin English II Pre-AP – 2 25 February 2011 “Green-Eyed Monster”: Jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello William Shakespeare’s Othello, a moral tragedy, relates the tale of the downfall of Othello, the brave and honored Moor of Venice, due to suspicions of his wife being unfaithful. Othello’s ensign, Iago, orchestrates the tragedy. Iago debases Othello’s character through the manipulation of his jealous tendencies, as well as the manipulation of several other people. As a result of Iago’s mind-play, Othello becomes a jealous monster, eventually going so far as to kill his innocent wife on proof based almost entirely on supposition. Through Othello’s devolution into a mad, jealous monster created by Iago, Shakespeare explores the darkness of the mind, as well as the vulnerability of the heart, to relate that even the most dignified of military heroes can fall victim to something as trivial as jealousy. Despite his tragic end, Othello originally behaves not jealous at all, but clear-minded and confident, the jealousy nowhere to be seen, subdued by his duty to Venice as well as his love for Desdemona. For instance, when Othello elopes with Desdemona and swords are drawn as a result of Brabantio’s accusations and demands for prison, Othello calmly commands, “Hold your hands, / Both of you my inclining and the rest,” and demands Brabantio, “Whither will you that I go / To answer this your charge?” (1.2.83-87). Since Othello is yet untouched by Iago’s poison, his mind is clear and free from anything irrational. This apollonian attitude serves as a contrast to the Dionysian disposition later on, when he is falling into trances because he is so overcome with jealousy. Othello’s calm demeanor and confidence serve as a blank slate for Iago to contaminate. Later, when Othello has arrived in Cyprus to find Desdemona before him, he addresses her as his
291-292).” he also claims that he “cannot speak enough of this content. Neither Othello nor Desdemona would ever consider adultery at this point. and may thee” (1.169-171). Iago also warns Othello to “beware… of jealousy! / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on” (3. affect Othello soon enough. without adding Iago’s manipulation into the mix. It is also somewhat ironic when Othello claims this love is “too much of a joy. This provocation disguised as a warning works as a shovel to unearth the extreme jealousy people of Othello’s background are known for.” referencing the color’s jealous connotations. however. / It stops [him] here. when Othello strikes Desdemona.264.” because this moment is one of the last times the reader will see Othello untouched by Iago’s doubtful words. Lodovico’s shock verbally affirms . Shakespeare depicts Othello’s love for Desdemona as something very genuine and very pure. it is too much of joy” (2. and. / She has deceived her father. Lodovico asks. Iago’s repetition of these lines later on strike a chord in Othello’s heart. his words carry a certain gravity emphasized by the line’s couplet form. Iago’s insinuations acting as a catalyst for the jealousy to build up to something insurmountable. “Is this the noble Moor… / Whom passion could not shake. Although Brabantio relates this well before Othello begins his degeneration.1. he evokes images that reflect the monstrous demeanor Othello takes on eventually.3. Moor. Brabantio’s words foreshadow what is to come despite his dying before tragedy really strikes.Heffner 2 “fair warrior” and refers to her as his “soul’s joy. at any time in their future. 266-268).179. nor. 182. Iago’s words do. Furthermore.3. After Othello escapes punishment for eloping with Desdemona. whose solid virtue / The shot of accident nor dart of chance could neither graze nor pierce?” (4. and this expedites the growth of jealousy inside his mind. and this undying love keeps Othello’s jealousy from surfacing. Iago calls jealousy a “green-eyed monster. 193-194). they love each other too much. as his transformation is rapid and severe. by calling jealousy a monster.1. if thou hast eyes to see. Brabantio bitterly gives him a warning: “Look to her.
as Othello is deeply unsettled by Desdemona’s supposed adultery. In the short time Othello has been on Cyprus. when Desdemona first becomes aware of Othello’s jealous wrath but refuses to deem it as such. as well as the isolation of jealousy being “born on itself. Othello’s transformation can be linked to his jealousy. Iago relishes. Thus.Heffner 3 Othello’s transformation. In addition. / But jealous for they’re jealous. The statement also reaffirms Shakespeare’s assertion that jealousy destroys as it consumes the heart and mind. as Iago’s lies begin to take over Othello’s mind. Emilia points out that “jealous souls… / Are not ever jealous for the cause. a 180-degree flip in his personality has occurred. even before the ocular proof has been presented.151-154). he arrives unaware of the changes happening all around the island. Accordingly. “Not poppy nor mandragora / Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world / Shall ever med’cine thee to that sweet sleep / Which thou owed’st yesterday” (3. Emilia’s description of jealousy as a monster reflects that which Iago mentioned earlier. It is a monster / Begot upon itself. both of which Iago exploits. and by this point his mind has already begun to decay.3.4.334-337). Iago uses plant imagery to convey the concept of sleeplessness as a sign of a disturbed mind. and it relates a tragedy meant to stir pity and revulsion in the reader. as Lodovico has been in Venice the whole time Iago has been poisoning Othello in Cyprus. wounded man . born upon itself” (3. as well as his vulnerable heart. The contrast between the two Othellos exhibits the metamorphic powers of jealousy as well as how easily susceptible a man can be to it. The repetition of the comparison. destructive monster. The certainty Iago possesses so soon that Othello will never again be peaceful demonstrates how quickly Othello jumps to conclusions as a result of his easily jealous nature. Iago’s debasement of Othello into a jealous killer is Shakespeare’s way of exploring the darkness and vulnerability of humanity. Othello goes from a well-respected commanding officer to a pitiful.” emphasizes the painting of jealousy as a hungry. to Othello.
. rotting his mind and causing the insecurities in his heart to fester. It has the ability to affect anyone. Jealousy overpowers the good in Othello.Heffner 4 whose only source of solace is death. and that is what makes jealousy so dangerous: it possesses no discretion. it truly is a monster.
New York: Barnes & Noble. 2007. .Heffner 5 Works Cited Shakespeare. Othello. William.