The Role Of Jealousy In William Shakespeare's Othello

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Tragedies, in any form, are often written as lessons to readers about how not to live their lives. William Shakespeare’s famed tragedy, Othello, is no different. It is the story of Iago, a man who plots his revenge against the army general, Othello, attempting to convince Othello that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with Michael Cassio, the man he promoted to his lieutenant instead of Iago. Iago’s deception of Othello culminates in the deaths of four major characters, including Desdemona, who is killed by Othello, and Othello himself, who dies suicidally after he learns of Iago’s deception. Cassio is wounded severely in the leg, and Iago is dragged away to be tortured for the destruction he caused. Jealousy serves as the motivation …show more content…
Iago never truly relates his true motivations for his horrendous actions, but he does give a few possibilities. One possibility is that he is jealous of Cassio because Othello promoted Cassio instead of him. “Mere prattle without practice/Is all his soldiership (I.i.27-28), Iago describes Cassio to Roderigo, emphasizing that Othello promoted Cassio even though he “had seen the proof [of Iago’s skill]/At Rhodes, at Cyprus” (I.i.29-30). Already, Iago’s jealousy has become dangerous. As he gives this disparaging description to Roderigo, Iago is desperately trying to undermine Cassio, attempting to destroy his reputation. From page one, Shakespeare shows the destructive nature of jealousy, displaying how even a simple conversation can damage a reputation. Another possibility for Iago’s jealousy is that he wants retribution on Othello for a rumor he heard about an affair Othello had with Iago’s wife, Emilia: “It is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets/’Has done my office. I know not if ‘t be true,/But I.../Will do so as for surety” (I.iii.430-433). In this other source of Iago’s jealousy, Shakespeare continues to affirm his jealousy’s destructiveness. Iago’s hatred for Othello does not allow him to see past this rumor and he assumes it must be true. This single-minded thinking leads him to craft a plan to bring down both Othello and Cassio at the same time. The thought of …show more content…
He is blinded by the hatred for Desdemona and Cassio that he is not even willing to consider Desdemona’s innocence, as he turns down the proof she offers him. He does not give Desdemona any opportunity to respond to the accusations, merely responding: “Sweet soul, take heed, take heed of perjury./Thou art on thy deathbed” (V.ii.63-64). And this to a woman he used to, and possibly still does, love. Othello then strangles her and she dies. Iago, having killed Roderigo and injured Cassio, enters after Emilia. They all soon realize that Iago has been deceiving them the entire time. Iago, upset that Emilia has revealed to everyone his true motives, kills his wife. Othello, realizing all the destruction he has caused, kills himself to be with Desdemona, pointing out that he “used to be Othello,” emphasizing that he has recognized that he is no longer the man who fought for Desdemona, but has been turned into a monster by Iago’s obsession with vengeance. With this final scene of the play, Shakespeare presents us with the last, and certainly most overwhelming display of jealousy’s destructive force. Iago is surrounded by destroyed lives and relationships, and he has caused every ounce of it just to get

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