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The Theme of Jealousy in Othello

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In regard to appearance versus reality, the theme of Othello is jealousy. One can reach this theme through analyzing different scenes throughout the play. Evidence for this is found in other characters and events all throughout the story. This paper will explore different ideas that cement the theme of this tale.

One event that displays the theme of jealousy is when Iago is speaking to Othello about reputation and says, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on” (Shakespeare 3.3.165-167) shows the theme quite explicitly through a conversation. Iago warns his lord of jealousy through the use of a metaphor. Iago points out that reputation is often hurt by jealousy. Iago goes on to describe jealousy as a monster to highlight the fact that jealous behavior helps nobody. As Iago makes implications about Desdemona’s infidelity and Othello compels him to uncover what he knows, Iago cautions Othello against capitulating to desire. Obviously, Iago gives this admonition with a boastful demeanor. That is, he realizes that colloquialism ‘envy’ and conjuring a hostile visual picture will increase Othello’s worry. Iago’s personification of envy as a ‘green-looked at beast’ is well known, and his utilization of the shading green stems from a Renaissance conviction that green was a ‘bilious tint,’ connected to an unevenness of the humors that caused dread and desire.

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“Jealousy is often referred to as the Green-Eyed Monster. This phrase comes from William Shakespeare’s play Othello. Othello thinks that his wife is having an affair. He becomes so possessed by his thoughts that he can’t separate what is real from what he imagines.” (Gard p.17)

Another place in the story that supports this theme is when Iago says, “Trifles light as air Are to the jealous confirmations strong As proofs of holy writ: this may do something” (Shakespeare 3.3.322-324) In this scene, the theme is shown because Iago conveys these lines in a short monologue where he advises the group of spectators regarding his arrangement to plant Desdemona’s hanky in Cassio’s room. Here, the hanky is simply A metaphor for ‘trifle light as air.’ the cloth implies nothing. In any case, realizing that Othello’s jealousy has just increased, Iago predicts that Othello will overestimate the cloth’s importance, accepting it as a ‘proof of holy writ’, as proof direct from the Bible.

“Therefore, the preferred method for coping with their jealousy, incessant rage and humiliation is violence with the expectation that the female kin should be punished rather than allowed to change her behaviour and assume responsibility resorting to previous informal relations.” (Daily Times p. 10)

In addition, the theme of jealousy is displayed when Emilia says, “But jealous souls will not be answer’d so; They are not ever jealous for the cause, But jealous for they are jealous: ’tis a monster Begot upon itself, born on itself.” (Shakespeare 3.4.159-164) This supports the theme because Emilia says these words to Desdemona trying to clarify the silly idea of jealousy. Despite the fact that jealous people may give an explanation behind their envy, but jealousy is itself and has no real reasons to support it. At the end of the day, desirous individuals are intrinsically jealous. Emilia uses metaphors by perplexing a picture of envy as a beast that brings forth itself. Emilia’s picture reviews Iago’s ‘green-eyed monster.’ It additionally reviews the old image of the ouroboros, which portrays a snake gulping its own tail and subsequently stuck in a self-sustaining circle.

In case report: Tiapride for pathological jealousy (Othello syndrome) in elderly patients by Taijiro MUKAI he writes, “The symptoms of this patient were diagnosed as those typical of pathological jealousy, also known as Othello Syndrome. Over several months, he doubted the faithfulness of his wife but did not have any clear evidence.” (Mukai p.133)

Works Cited

  • Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Edward Pechter, 2nd Norton Critical Edition, W.W. Norton, 2017.
  • Mukai, Taijiro. “Tiapride for Pathological Jealousy (Othello Syndrome) in Elderly Patients.” Psychogeriatrics, vol. 3, no. 3, 2003, pp. 132–134., doi:10.1111/j.1479-8301.2003.00019.x.
  • Gard, Carolyn. “Taming Jealousy — ‘The Green-Eyed Monster.'” Current Health 2, vol. 25, no. 7, Mar. 1999, p. 26. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=1632356&site=eds-live.
  • “Othello’s Jealousy.” Daily Times (Pakistan), 9 June 2014. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=BKM2DTP20140609.XIII.158.00016&site=eds-live.

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