Throughout Shakespeares Othello, the major theme of jealousy is apparent.According to Microsoft Bookshelf, jealousy, by definition, means “resentful orbitter in rivalry.” The tragedy Othello focuses on the doom of Othello and theother major characters as a result of jealousy. The theme of jealousy isprominent throughout the play as it motivates the characters actions. InShakespeares Othello, jealousy is portrayed through the major characters ofIago and Othello.
It utterly corrupts their lives because it causes Iago to showhis true self, which in turn triggers Othello to undergo an absolute conversionthat destroys the lives of their friends. Iago, “most honest” (I, iii, 7) inthe eyes of his companions, is, in fact, truly the opposite. His feelings ofjealousy uncovers his actual self.
D.R. Godfrey concludes this after hearingIago state that he “ha lookd upon the world for four times sevenyears” (I, iii, 311-2). In his essay, Godfrey explains that Iago “hasarrived at one of the great seven year…
critical stages” (421) of his life,causing him to become “jealous, embittered, …
and vengeful.” (421).Iagos dupe, Roderigo, is the only person, in fact, to know this previously;Iago tells Roderigo that he is “not what he is” (I, i, 69). He possessesthis jealousy because he is distressed that Othello chose Michael Cassio, a”valiant” (II, i, 98), “Florentine.
..arithmetician” (I, i, 19-20), overhimself for the position of lieutenancy. Jealousy “divorces Iago…fromrationality”, Godfrey states (418).
This loss of rational causes Iago to”make a life of jealousy” (III, iii, 204) and plots to destroy Othello.Although Iago has a reputation of being “full of love and honesty” (III,iii, 138), he is responsible for destroying many lives and is considered”perhaps one of the most villainous characters in all literature” (Godfrey422). Iago alludes to Othello that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful withCassio. Iago initially intends to hurt Othello and make him regret appointingCassio as his lieutenant; however, he ends up hurting others in the process.Iagos jealousy causes his true character, one of “viciousness” (Godfrey421), to become noticeable. This, in turn, creates a new Othello to emerge, one”utterly possessed, calling out for blood and vengeance” (Godfrey 418).
Othello, considered by A.C. Bradley one of “the most romantic figures amongShakespeares heroes” (1) and a “dignified” (2) “poet” (1), quicklybecomes entranced by Iagos “vengefulness” (Godfrey, 421). Othello,placing entire confidence in Iagos honesty, has been “moved by the warningsof his…
honest…friend” (Bradley 3). At first, Othello does not believeIago; but his “degradation is complete” (Godfrey 418) by the end of the”Temptation Scene” (III, iii). Even though Iago produces a minimal amount ofproof, a “handkerchief that Iago may have seen Cassio wipe his beard with, andCassios alleged.
..dreams” (Godfrey 418), Othello is completely “possessedby the madness of jealousy” (Godfrey 419).
He immediately “passes sentencesof death” (Godfrey 418) to Cassio and Desdemona, deciding that Desdemonashould die “some swift means of death” (III, iii, 479). One can tell thatIagos jealousy has, in fact, corrupted Othello. This great poet (Bradley 1),Othello, previously had spoken of Desdemona, his wife, as “wondrous” (I,iii, 160) and “Heavenly” (I, iii, 258); after hearing from Iago thatDesdemona and Cassio are having an affair, his tone changes and begins to speaklike Iago.
He begins to use “gross, animal imagery” (Rocchino 3-9-00) tomake references to his wife and women in general. For example, he callsDesdemona a “haggard” (III, iii, 261), while also labeling her derogatorynames like “lewd minx” (III, iii, 487) and “whore” (IV, ii, 99).Although Othello is most affected by Iagos jealousy, the repercussions onothers are very evident. Othellos jealousy destroys his love through hishatred.
He can no longer have doubts about his wifes guilt; therefore, hemust finally act against it by “assuming the mask of impersonal justice”(Godfrey 420). He must “kill” (V, ii, 32) Desdemona. Even though Desdemonatries to tell him the truth, Othello is completely irrational, refusing tolisten (V, ii). Emilia, too, is murdered as a repercussion of Iagos jealousy.When she states the truth that she “found by fortune the handkerchief anddid give it to her husband” (V, ii, 225), Iago, calling her a “villainouswhore” (V, ii, 227), stabs Emilia from behind, murdering her. Othello thenseriously wounds Iago with his “sword of Spain” (V, ii, 252). He does notwant to kill Iago because it is “happiness to die” (V, ii, 289).
Instead, hewants him to live a life of suffering. As the truth comes out about Iagosdeception, Othello realizes the damage he has caused by believing Iago, whichled to the deaths of Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia. He then “smoteshimself” (V, ii, 355), resulting in his immediate death.
The punishmentsare, according to Godfrey, “justified” (423) in that the “destroyer is byhimself destroyed” (423). Because the major theme of jealousy is apparentthroughout Shakespeares Othello, one realizes that the play focuses on thedoom of Othello and the other major characters as a result of this jealousy. Thetheme of jealousy is prominent throughout the play as it motivates thecharacters actions. The major characters of Iago and Othello clearly possessthis jealousy and show how it affects them. Iago is forced to expose his actualnature and Othello undergoes a total transformation from a normal human to aspiteful monster. Obviously, jealousy does cause people to change in horrificways.