Jealousy in Othello: Examples & Quotes Video

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  • 0:02 Jealousy in 'Othello'
  • 0:54 Who Is Jealous?
  • 1:24 Othello's Jealousy
  • 2:50 Iago's Jealousy
  • 4:32 Bianca's Jealousy
  • 5:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Bishop
Shakespeare's ingenious tragedy ''Othello'' is packed with themes of human emotion including anger, revenge, and deceit, all of which are driven by one overarching theme: jealousy.

Jealousy in Othello

As is typical of Shakespeare's tragedies, the main character in Othello is besieged and overcome by a weakness that leads him to ruin. Othello is perhaps one of Shakespeare's most troubled and emotionally exploited heroes. Having married a woman of unparalleled beauty and nobility, Othello already feels unworthy. His lack of self-esteem is further exploited by the villain, Iago, who insinuates that Desdemona is unfaithful. Othello's jealousy is so powerful that he murders his beloved wife, but Othello is not the only character whose actions are motivated by jealousy.

In this lesson, we will examine the theme of jealousy as it relates to the development of the plot, and as motivation for several of the play's characters.

Who is Jealous?

Othello is driven to madness by the insinuations that his wife is cheating on him with this lieutenant, Cassio. Iago artfully engineers Othello's descent into madness by gradually feeding Othello lies. Why? Well, Iago is jealous too! There is also one minor character whose jealousy plays a pivotal role in advancing the plot. Bianca is Cassio's girlfriend, who reveals Cassio's possession of Desdemona's handkerchief in front of Othello.

Othello's Jealousy

Although he is a successful military commander, Othello is a Moor from Cyprus. His dark skin and enslavement as a youth paint an unpropitious view among the other characters regarding his professional worthiness, as well as a fitting husband, for the beautiful Desdemona.

Othello's background is a focal point of the plot, abused by Iago to rouse the disdain of the other characters. It stands to reason that Othello would be a bit insecure.

I crave fit disposition for my wife.

Due reference of place and exhibition

With such accommodation and besort

As levels with her breeding (Act1.Scene 3)

Othello feels undeserving of his wife, recognizing that the color of his skin and his humble origins make him unfit for the pure and noble Desdemona.

Elizabethan England was for all intents and purposes a homogenous culture. Othello's marriage to Desdemona is viewed by others, especially Iago, as an affront to the natural order of the world. Othello is aware of how his marriage is viewed by others. It is easy to understand why he is vulnerable to the mere insinuation that his wife is unfaithful. Iago exploits Othello's insecurity and turns it into crippling jealousy.

Iago's Jealousy

Shakespeare crafts the perfect villain in Iago, who's professional and personal jealousy, as well as his disregard for morality are the ideal makings of a malefactor. Iago confesses to hating 'the Moor' (Othello) and seeks his revenge for sport and profit (Act1. Scene 3), meaning that his revenge will be both fun and fruitful.

Iago is jealous of both Othello's success and the fact that Othello made Cassio a lieutenant. Iago claims that Cassio has never set a foot on the battlefield and that in promoting Cassio Othello has chosen by letter and affection and not by old gradation (Act 1. Scene 1).

Iago is also motivated for personal reasons. He desires Desdemona even though he believes her purity has been spoiled by Othello; Iago is also looking to avenge what he believes was an affair between Othello and Iago's wife:

I do love her too;

Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure

I stand accountant for as great a sin,

But partly led to diet my revenge,

For that I do suspect the lusty Moor

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