Throughout Shakespeare’s Othello, the major theme of jealousy is apparent. According to Microsoft Bookshelf, jealousy, by definition, means “resentful or bitter in rivalry.” The tragedy Othello focuses on the doom of Othello and the other major characters as a result of jealousy. The theme of jealousy is prominent throughout the play as it motivates the characters’ actions. In Shakespeare’s Othello, jealousy is portrayed through the major characters of Iago and Othello. It utterly corrupts their lives because it causes Iago to show his true self, which in turn triggers Othello to undergo an absolute conversion that destroys the lives of their friends. Iago, “most honest” (I, iii, 7) in the eyes of his companions, is, in fact, truly the opposite. His feelings of jealousy uncovers his actual self.
D.R. Godfrey concludes this after hearing Iago state that he “ha’ look’d upon the world for four times seven years” (I, iii, 311-2).
In his essay, Godfrey explains that Iago “has arrived at one of the great seven year…critical stages” (421) of his life, causing him to become “jealous, embittered, … [and] vengeful.” (421).
Iago’s 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 possesses this jealousy because he is distressed that Othello chose Michael Cassio, a “valiant” (II, i, 98), “Florentine…arithmetician” (I, i, 19-20), over himself for the position of lieutenancy. Jealousy “divorces [Iago]…from rationality”, Godfrey states (418).
The characters of Othello and Iago are tangled in the deception between love and hate. Othello comes to Venice to lead them against the Turks. Othello and Iago are both military men with strong fighting abilities however; they are not fighting the same battles. Othello falls in love with a beautiful lady and Iago falls in love with the idea of becoming lieutenant in the military. However, Iago ...
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” (Godfrey 422).
Iago alludes to Othello that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful with Cassio. Iago initially intends to hurt Othello and make him regret appointing Cassio as his lieutenant; however, he ends up hurting others in the process. Iago’s jealousy causes his true character, one of “vicious[ness]” (Godfrey 421), 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 figure[s] among Shakespeare’s heroes” (1) and a “dignified” (2) “poet” (1), quickly becomes entranced by Iago’s “vengeful[ness]” (Godfrey, 421).
Othello, placing entire confidence in Iago’s honesty, has been “moved by the warnings of [his]…honest…friend” (Bradley 3).
At first, Othello does not believe Iago; but his “degradation is complete” (Godfrey 418) by the end of the “Temptation Scene” (III, iii).
Even though Iago produces a minimal amount of proof, a “handkerchief that Iago may have seen Cassio wipe his beard with, and Cassio’s alleged…dreams” (Godfrey 418), Othello is completely “possessed by the madness of jealousy” (Godfrey 419).
He immediately “passes sentence[s] of death” (Godfrey 418) to Cassio and Desdemona, deciding that Desdemona should die “some swift means of death” (III, iii, 479).
One can tell that Iago’s 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 “Heaven[ly]” (I, iii, 258); after hearing from Iago that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair, his tone changes and begins to speak like Iago. He begins to use “gross, animal imagery” (Rocchino 3-9-00) to make references to his wife and women in general. For example, he calls Desdemona a “haggard” (III, iii, 261), while also labeling her derogatory names like “lewd minx” (III, iii, 487) and “whore” (IV, ii, 99).
In Shakespeare?s play Othello, Iago is the antagonist. That is, he is the villain in the play Othello. He is the person who causes an action to occur which affects the other characters in the play. This action may not necessarily be a good thing. Iago is the catalyst for Othello?s change. He is the reason behind Othello?s changing views of his wife Desdemona, which results in the deaths of many ...
Although Othello is most affected by Iago’s jealousy, the repercussions on others are very evident.
Othello’s jealousy destroys his love through his hatred. He can no longer have doubts about his wife’s guilt; therefore, he must finally act against it by “assuming the mask of impersonal justice” (Godfrey 420).
He must “kill” (V, ii, 32) Desdemona. Even though Desdemona tries to tell him the truth, Othello is completely irrational, refusing to listen (V, ii).
Emilia, too, is murdered as a repercussion of Iago’s jealousy. When she states the truth that she “found by fortune [the handkerchief] and did give it to [her] husband” (V, ii, 225), Iago, calling her a “villainous whore” (V, ii, 227), stabs Emilia from behind, murdering her. Othello then seriously wounds Iago with his “sword of Spain” (V, ii, 252).
He does not want to kill Iago because it is “happiness to die” (V, ii, 289).
Instead, he wants him to live a life of suffering. As the truth comes out about Iago’s deception, Othello realizes the damage he has caused by believing Iago, which led to the deaths of Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia. He then “smote[s] him[self]” (V, ii, 355), resulting in his immediate death. The punishments are, according to Godfrey, “justified” (423) in that the “destroyer is by himself destroyed” (423).
Because the major theme of jealousy is apparent throughout Shakespeare’s Othello, one realizes that the play focuses on the doom of Othello and the other major characters as a result of this jealousy. The theme of jealousy is prominent throughout the play as it motivates the characters’ actions. The major characters of Iago and Othello clearly possess this jealousy and show how it affects them. Iago is forced to expose his actual nature and Othello undergoes a total transformation from a normal human to a spiteful monster. Obviously, jealousy does cause people to change in horrific ways.