Essay: The theme of jealousy in the play Othello

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Othello, written by William Shakespeare is the story of sexualized jealousy. Jealousy and envy take a toll on the story from beginning to end. Jealousy is the “green-eyed monster” that is inherently unreasonable. Othello, as well as, the other characters feature jealousy as the dominant motive for their actions. Shakespeare portrays sexual and romantic jealousy, as well as professional jealousy as the evident cause of self-destruction. Othello’s insecurities drive him to be jealous of Cassio. Iago’s jealousy of Othello urges him to shatter Othello’s relationship with Desdemona. Throughout Othello, Shakespeare idolizes that love becomes hate, and hate becomes love. For the characters, the distinction of these feelings is being blurred. Jealousy amongst the characters is the causation for their consequential actions. “In the early modern period, to be envious of something was to want something you did not have, and to be jealous was to fear losing something that you did’ (Olson 8). William Shakespeare proves through his literary work Othello, that if jealousy becomes part of ones’ personality, it can control us and once it does, one loses the ability to ration.

Roderigo is a minor character, who carries out the thematic desire of jealousy. However, Roderigo’s jealousy does not change the way he acts and behaves. His purpose in Othello is carried out through the manipulations of Iago. Iago realizes that Roderigo is in love with Desdemona, so he convinces Roderigo that he can make Desdemona fall in love with him. Roderigo is jealous of Othello for having Desdemona, the girl he thinks he cannot have. Roderigo sees Othello as an opponent, which he has to compete with in order to win Desdemona’s heart. “What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe, / If he can carry it thus,” Roderigo says expressing his emotions of Othello having Desdemona out of luck (Othello 1.1.67-68). It is because of this Roderigo continues to seek Iago’s advice. Iago uses Roderigo’s jealousy to his advantage. Iago persuades Roderigo to confront Desdemona’s father, Brabantio. He tells Roderigo “Call up her father, Rouse him…poison his delights…do, with like timorous accent and dire yell,” (1.1.64-65). Iago is not concerned with how Roderigo truly feels. “His intentions are not to help Roderigo seek Desdemona but to have Brabantio after Othello because it will cause him, Othello, distress” (Putnam 43). Roderigo’s love for Desdemona has clouded his judgment which leads him susceptible to Iago’s manipulation. Roderigo falling into Iago’s plan, is betrayed and killed by Iago, leading to his downfall.

“Iago is a man blinded by envy and anger, with a goal in mind for everyone to become equally jealous, which aim he completes through his betrayal and manipulation of characters” (43). Iago can identify the weaknesses of the other characters and uses their weakness to harvest jealousy within them. Iago provides a distinction of envy and jealousy. He is envious, rather than jealous, of Cassio, who earned the position of lieutenant rather than himself. Iago believes he should have earned the position rather than Cassio because he is more experienced. Iago plans to disrupt and destroy the life of Cassio. While in Cyprus, Iago urges Cassio to drink a lot of alcohol to disprove his position in front of Othello. Iago conceives a plan for Roderigo to attack Cassio. Roderigo falling into Iago’s plan, attacks Cassio, leading to the demotion of Cassio. Iago reveals his evil capabilities after he successfully gets Cassio fired. Iago is however, sexually jealous of his wife Emilia. Emilia is rumored to have been sleeping with Othello. Iago is an inherently jealous character, yet he does not seem convinced: “I know not if’t be true, / But I, for mere suspicion of that kind, / Will do as if for surety” (Othello 1.3.369-72). His jealousy develops which grows into greater hatred for Othello. Iago’s rejection for the position of lieutenant is not the reason for his manipulation. However, it is that Iago wants everyone to feel the jealousy and anger that consumes him. In Iago’s soliloquies, Shakespeare conveys Iago is not driven by reason but by passion. According to Marcia Macaulay, Iago “is consumed by a desire to best those whom he feels rightly or wrongly have wronged him” (4). Iago’s jealous rampage has affected his relationships with Othello, Roderigo, and Cassio. Iago is not affected by jealousy personally, however, his jealousy has affected the other characters. It has destroyed lives and relationships. Iago’s jealousy of Othello and Cassio have made him responsible for the deaths of Emilia, Desdemona, Othello, and Roderigo. William Shakespeare portrays Iago as one of the evilest villains.

Othello is not an inherently jealous character; however, Iago drags out the jealousy within him. Othello is a confident and dignified character; however, the audience sees a transformation in his personality as he begins to use bestial language and make accusations. “Iago so desperately wants Othello to become insane with jealousy, and he initiates this envy and rage by creating lies of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness” (Putnam 45). He conceives a plan and delivers a story of betrayal to Othello in which destroys the matrimony between Othello and Desdemona. Iago does so by deceit and trickery fueling a jealous rage within Othello. Iago learns that Cassio has been appointed lieutenant instead of himself and seeks revenge on Othello. Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. Iago chooses Cassio to be the victim because he is consumed with so much jealousy of not being appointed lieutenant. “When initially confronted with Iago’s suspicions, [Othello] boldly rejects the imputation that he possesses a jealous disposition” (Olson 12). However, when Desdemona becomes relentless at dinner about reinstating Cassio Othello’s jealousy grows. “Give me a living reason she’s disloyal,” Othello demands, threatening Iago that he must prove of Desdemona’s affair (Othello 3.3.61). As Othello’s jealousy rages, Iago offers many ‘proofs’ in which is the beginning of his plan to enrage Othello. Desdemona drops a handkerchief which Othello gave her, and Iago uses it for his own deceit. Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s room and proclaims to Othello he has seen Cassio with such a handkerchief. “Othello turns the appraising gaze at himself and begins to doubt Desdemona’s attraction to him” (Olson 14). Othello’s jealousy develops as the audience learns his mind is being controlled by Iago. Iago’s words of Cassio talking in his sleep confessing his love for Desdemona burned into Othello’s brain. Othello’s perception of Cassio has completely changed because of Iago. Othello has ordered Iago to murder Cassio. Pretending to have doubts of Othello’s wish, Iago has asked him to reconsider. In response Othello says:

Never, Iago… Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace, Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love, Till that a capable and wide revenge Swallow them up (Othello 3.3.454, 458-461).

Othello has turned his love and respect for Cassio into hatred. Othello has become jealous and begins to suspect Desdemona’s intentions. Iago has power over Othello because of trust, loyalty, and evidence of infidelity. Othello does not need to be jealous but is because he allows Iago to manipulate him. Othello only takes into consideration what Iago has said and presented to him. He had the choice to ask Desdemona of the affair but chooses to trust Iago. Othello’s jealousy has worked him into trance leading him to smothering Desdemona to death. His feelings of love for Desdemona has turned into murderous hatred. As Othello is being consumed by jealousy, he speaks such words, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men” (5.2.7-8). Othello believes he cannot have Desdemona anymore and commits an act of murder so no one can have her. Only after murdering Desdemona, Othello discovers the truth of Iago’s intentions allowing Othello to return to the man he once was. Othello, a tragic hero, takes his own life and asks to be remembered as “not easily jealous.” William Shakespeare has conveyed that personal weakness and insecurities can drive oneself to be incapable of rational thoughts. Shakespeare has portrayed through Othello that jealousy is a personal flaw.

William Shakespeare has explored the theme of jealousy in the play Othello. With Iago, Othello, and Roderigo, Shakespeare conveys the effects of jealousy. Shakespeare portrays how human emotions can be manipulated leading to self-destruction. Jealousy is what drives the character’s lives from beginning to end of Othello. Othello and Roderigo’s jealousy are not self-inherited, rather fashioned by Iago. Othello, written by William Shakespeare conveys a story of sexualized and professional jealousy. Self-inflicted insecurities and self-inherited jealousy are the prominent causes of self-destruction throughout the play. With the characters Othello, Iago, and Roderigo, Shakespeare idolizes love becoming hate, and hate becoming love. To be envious was to want something one did not believe they could have, and to be jealous was to lose something you had. William Shakespeare conveys in Othello, jealousy can consume a person through manipulation, and once it does, a person loses ability to think clearly and reason.


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theme of jealousy in othello essay

William Shakespeare

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Iago refers to jealousy as the "green-eyed monster." As this metaphor suggests, jealousy is closely associated with the theme of appearance and reality. For instance, at one point Othello demands that Iago provide "ocular proof" of Desdemona's infidelity—he demands to see reality. But Iago instead provides the circumstantial evidence of the handkerchief, which Othello, consumed by his jealousy, accepts as a substitute for "ocular proof." Othello's jealousy impedes his ability to distinguish between reality and appearance. While the prejudiced characters in the play denigrate Othello as an animal or a beast based on his race, Othello's obvious honor and intelligence makes these attacks obviously ridiculous. Yet when Othello is overcome by jealousy, he does become beast-like, falling into epileptic fits that rob him of the ability to speak intelligibly.

Othello is also not the only character in Othello to feel jealousy. Both Iago and Roderigo act to destroy Othello out of jealousy, with disastrous consequences.

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Theme of Jealousy in Othello by Shakespeare – Research Paper Research Paper

Writing a paper on Othello’s jealousy? Essays like the one below will point you in the right direction!


Jealousy in othello, works cited.

The play Othello is among the most famous tragic plays written by Shakespeare. The story concentrates on four main characters namely Othello, Desdemona, Cassio and Lago. Due to its varied nature and the fact that it addresses important themes such as betrayal, love, death and jealousy, it is still performed in many theatres today.

It stands out as a unique play with a personal setting describing the aspirations and private lives of the main characters. The jealousy displayed by Othello and the villainous nature of Lago are some of the qualities that impress the readers of the play.

In addition, the relationship among the characters makes the play unique (Sparknotes 1).Othello and Lago show close associations which make it difficult to figure out who has the greatest responsibility in the play. Most importantly, the role played by Lago who is the villain distinguishes the play from others. Shakespeare addresses different themes in the play and this essay will discuss jealousy as one of the themes addressed in Othello by Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was one of the most prominent writers who ever lived. He was known for addressing various themes such as betrayal, death and love in his works as evidenced in his play Othello. However, theme of jealousy stands out from the start till the end of the play. As the play begins, Roderigo is presented as he tries to be close to Desdemona.

The theme runs throughout the play until the end, leaving Othello very angry and envious because he believes that Cassio and Desdemona have been entangled in an affair. The jealousy of some characters in the play is influenced by other characters. Lago is the greatest victim of this and creates lies and presents situations aimed at misleading the other characters. He exhibits jealousy towards Cassio and Othello because he was not appointed as a lieutenant.

Lago can be described as a jealous character since he wishes every other person could share in his feelings so he goes ahead to plant the seed of jealousy in other characters. He is driven by anger and envy and aims at instilling jealousy in all the other characters, an aim he achieves through manipulating and betraying them, particularly Othello.

The play begins with Roderigo’s desperate love for Desmodena after which he decides to pay Lago to take her from Othello. This is an important scene in the play since it depicts Lago as a villainous character.

The deeds of Lago and his words portray him as a manipulative character. He designs a plan to ruin Othello by calling him a thief since he has stolen the heart of Desmodena through witchcraft. He goes on to implore Roderigo to confront Desmodena’s father by telling him, ‘call up her father, rouse him…poison his delights…do, with like timorous accent and dire yell’ (Shakespeare 64).

In actual sense, Lago is not concerned about the heart of Roderigo. This implies that Roderigo’s love for Desdemona and the fact that he wants to be with her means nothing to Lago. His intentions are not geared towards helping Roderigo look for Desdemona but encourage Brabantio to pursue Othello because this would disturb him.

Lago perfects the art of speaking things that people would want to hear hence misleading them and making them react according to his plans. He is so witty in his diction to keep off any possible argument and confrontation.

He treats Othello in a manipulative manner when he convinces Roderigo to confront Desdemona’s father regarding the conduct of the daughter. Brabantio finds it difficult to believe the accusations leveled against her daughter by the two and dismisses them as absurd. He is angered by the two after they disturb him at night when he is asleep.

After this incident, Roderigo tries to justify his accusations but his actions only serve to further anger Brabantio. He refers to Roderigo as a villain while Roderigo calls him a senator. Brabantio is baffled by the remark made by Roderigo and sits back to reexamine the situation once more. After carefully re-examining the situation, his anger subsides and starts considering the stories told by the two especially when he discovers that Desdemona is not in her bed chamber (Sparknotes 3).

Lago chooses his words judiciously and expresses his views carefully. He knows what to say and the most appropriate time to say it in order to convince his listeners. He practices this especially when talking to Roderigo and Othello. He begins his talks with imperatives then follows them with self answered questions and concludes by making daring assertions.

The timing nature of Lago is evident when he speaks to Roderigo about the suspicions of Desdemona being in love with Othello. Lago brings out Othello as a deceitful person whose lies are believed by Desdemona. He then uses these lies to manipulate Roderigo by telling him that he is capable of distinguishing the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. However, what drives Lago to manipulate Othello is the jealousy he harbors towards him.

The actions of Lago and Othello are based on what they say and do. Both have hidden intentions of dominating over each other. Othello is seeking answers while Lago intends to manipulate those he considers to have hurt him. As a result, Lago manipulates the conversations to cause Othello create conclusions that suit him.

By using this strategy, Lago waits for Othello’s answer for him to craft a response that will increase his jealousy. For example, when Desdemona is seen with Cassio in a private place, Othello asks Lago about it. Lago answers Othello by telling him that he believes it was Cassio. Clearly, Lago evades the question asked by Othello but instead frames his own answer hence manipulating Othello to answer his own question (Shakespeare 65).

Lago employs suspicion, forestalled criticism, hints and twists reality. He frames the relationship between Cassio and Desdemona for the sake of convenience. He is so determined to ensure that Othello develops unending jealousy for Desdemona by insinuating that Desmodena is unfaithful.

The chance presents itself when Cassio and Desmodena are spotted together. Lago slyly comments about the behavior of the two, a comment that elicits serious thoughts in Othello and wonders what their intentions were. When Othello tries to get more information from Lago, he declines to give any information and this makes Othello more suspicious.

As a result, his jealousy towards Desdemona continues to grow. Lago uses implied communications to make sure that he achieves his goals. He manages to change the perceptions that Othello has towards Cassio and leaves him asking for more information. Othello tries to understand whether the accusations of unfaithfulness made by Lago against Desmodena are right.

Lago tells Othello that he should not continue thinking about the adulteries committed but instead Othello thinks about them deeply. He is persuaded by Lago and he develops jealousy towards Desmodena but never questions the two about the affair. Othello adheres to what he is told by Lago and relies on available predetermined evidence. For instance, when a handkerchief that belongs to Desdemona is found on the bed chamber of Cassio, he is convinced that Desdemona is unfaithful.

Othello’s jealousy towards Desdemona continues to increase and to him the only person who can be trusted is Lago because he seems concerned about his life. Lago is engaged in many secret strategies and manipulates him to move in the direction he wants by pretending to be an innocent person. This is a scheme that portrays Lago as a person who sympathizes with Othello but the case is different.

The deceitful nature of Lago is exhibited when he tells Othello that Desdemona lied to his father about marrying Othello. When Lago points out the past deeds of Desdemona, Othello continues developing jealousy towards her because she lied to her father regarding the marriage (Sparknotes 5).

Desdemona is represented as a mere pawn to Lago. In the first episodes of the play, Lago is not so much interested in her. He only mentions her when talking to Othello about her unfaithfulness.

Later in the development of the play, Lago feels threatened after Desdemona asks about his perception of women and how he depicts them. This compels Lago to express love that is not genuine simply because he has been forced to do so. However, this makes him angered and expresses his jealousy towards Desdemona till the end of the play.

The motivation of the evil acts that are perpetrated by Lago in the play is not brought out clearly in the play. He is angered and harbors intense jealousy towards other characters just because Cassio was appointed a lieutenant despite the fact that Lago was more experienced.

He too becomes jealous of Othello although his manipulative character is not justified by this jealousy towards Othello. The truth of the matter is that Lago is very jealous and strives towards developing the jealousy he has in other characters. He believes that he is the person undergoing a lot of suffering and wants other characters to develop anger and jealousy.

Lago comes out as one of the villainous characters in the works of William Shakespeare. What brings out this character is the fact that he secretly creates the trouble happening in the play but he pretends to be innocent and blameless such that nobody suspects him. He achieves this by applying manipulative strategies that end up betraying other characters.

He always tells lies that cause serious consequences but he expresses sympathy and is ever ready to share his secrets with somebody. It is not clear why Lago acts the way he acts and this makes him even more frightening. He is full of jealousy and wants every other person to feel as jealous as he is. The jealousy of Lago and his efforts to develop the same jealousy in others eventually leads into the deaths of many people and his own downfall.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York: Plain Label Books, 1968. Print.

SparkNotes. Themes, Motifs & Symbols . 2011. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2023, October 28). Theme of Jealousy in Othello by Shakespeare - Research Paper.

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The Theme of Jealousy in Othello

  • Date: Jun 24, 2019
  • Category: Othello
  • Downloads: 15

Theme of Jealousy in Othello In his literary works, William Shakespeare explored a host of themes through which he addressed various concerns. He developed the respective themes through the plot as well as using the characters in his plays and texts. He accords his characters mannerisms that seek to develop the themes that he wishes to present to his audience. Through various literary devices, he succeeds in presenting recurrent themes to the audience. Some of the common themes that are apparent in his pieces of work include death, betrayal, love and so forth. Perhaps the most paramount theme pertains to jealousy. Although he explores various other themes, jealousy remains the main theme in his classic piece of literature, Othello.

Seemingly, the theme of jealousy runs throughout the entire text. At the very beginning of the play, Roderigo is presented as being jealous of the protagonist, Othello as Desdemona’s husband (Zender 326). This is because he wanted to be with Desdemona and instead make her his wife. At the end of the text, jealousy is portrayed when Othello becomes very furious after he is made to believe that Desdemona and Cassio are having a love affair. Arguably, jealousy is a theme that has been greatly featured in the text.

At the beginning of the play, Roderigo is confined in Iago and is presented to be so much in love with Desdemona (Shakespeare 1154). The intense liking he has for Desdemona compels him to even pay Iago to help him woo her from her husband Othello. This first scene is of paramount importance because it portrays the true character of lago. He is presented as being manipulative and a villain. Iago proceeds with the plan although his main aim is not to help Roderigo get the love of his life; rather it is to cause Othello emotional distress.

In Othello, jealousy affects almost all characters and has diverse implications on their wellbeing. Although some of the characters are naturally jealous, others have their jealousy triggered by other characters. In this regard, Iago plays the leading role in triggering jealousy in other characters. As aforementioned, Iago takes practical measures to make Othello very jealous of his wife in a bid to destroy the relationship that they share (Omer and Marcello 3). To attain this, he creates lies about Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. He pursues this goal when him and Othello see Desdemona and Cassio together. Iago makes a very sly comment which leaves Othello wondering about the intentions of the Cassio and Desdemona. Othello gets even more jealous when lago fails to provide any further details about the two when interrogated.

In the third scene, Othello’s heart is inflamed with jealousy when he asks his wife about a handkerchief and she only provides the embroidered type. In this instance, she speaks of Cassio, further infuriating Othello who simply walks out. Othello becomes more jealous in the fourth scene when he sees Desdemona’s handkerchief with Bianca. This convinces him that his wife is actually having a love affair with Cassio.

In essence, jealousy is a paramount theme that runs throughout Othello. It is propagated by Iago who goes to all lengths to make everybody envious and angry. He literarily destroys Othello by making him jealous of his wife. As it has come out from the study, almost all characters are affected by this theme.

Works Cited Omer, Haim and Marcello de Verona. Doctor Lago’s treatment of Othello. American Journal of Psychology, 45 (1991): 1-12. Print. Shakespeare William. The tragedy of Othello. Literature: Approaches to fiction, poetry and drama. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2006. Print. Zender, Karl. The humiliation of lago. Studies in English Literature, 34 (1994): 323-330. Print.

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The Theme of Jealousy in Othello, Essay Example

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Shakespear’s Othello is one of the most prominent literature works that incorporates the theme of jealousy. In this play the reader can study and understand how jealousy can ruin people lives, even in cases when only the most circumstantial proof of guilt is provided. In this play, jealousy is employ as a weapon, which was unconsciously lethal because its victim tends to demolish himself and those around him. In this play, the theme of jealousy is mainly revealed through Iago and Othello. Iago uses jealousy as the source for his hatred, thus directing it against Othello. By taking different forms, like sexual suspicion or professional competition, the theme jealousy is still destructive for all the characters.

The fact of jealousy in this play shows us how it completely corrupts the lives of its main characters – Iago and Othello. Being noble and famous, Othello occupied relatively high position in the regard of his rulers, thus he had everything he needed and wanted. However, his primary weakness was revealed through his saturating insecurity and self-loathing that granted profuse ground for the scoundrel Iago to capitalize on Othello’s fatal mistake an unreasonable, unfounded jealousy, which drove him to kill what he loved the most, thus putting everything away along with his own life and destiny.

In the very first Act of the play, one of the major characters Iago puts across an ultimate and irresolvable jealousy of Othello, thus suspecting him – “that twixt my sheets / He has done my office.”(1.3.367-368) In fact, Iago sets the tone for the way jealousy effects the characters in the play. Iago appears to be not certain that Othello is actually cuckolding him, thus without having any evidence he is still being suspicious – “I know not if’t be true; / But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, / Will do as if for surety.”(1.3.371) “His destruction of Cassion is not only a means towards the ruin of Othello, but also an end in itself.”(Elster, 109) Thus, Iago is constantly reflecting his own envious and jealous feelings. However, it is Othello and his intense jealous behavior that encompass the major theme of the play. Othello appears to be the center of power, thus his behavior and exercise of free will strongly affects everyone around him. In his turn, Iago uses Othello’s prevailing insecurity and jealousy as the means for instant changes in Othello’s attitude towards Desdemona. As a result, Othello’s jealousy makes him to overestimate the worth of the handkerchief “More than indeed belonged to such a trifle”(5.2.226) and as a result underestimate his wife’s true worth like “the base Indian.”(Korda, 112)

Eventually, Iago uncovers his plans to get even with Othello:

“And nothing can or shall content my soul Till I am even’d with him, wife for wife, Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so strong”(2.1.275-279)

Consequently, as Iago unfurls his plans and intentions, he uses the ‘monster’ metaphor for the description of jealousy in an insincere, ironic warning to Othello to watch out “O beware jealousy; / it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on”(3.3.165) In the scene when Emilia warns Desdemona that a jealousy in men is a “monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself”(3.4.156-157) the thread continues. As a result, Desdemona trembles at the thought Othello’s potential jealousy, thus praying “Heaven keep the monster from Othello’s mind!”(3.4.158) I appears that Emilia serves as an ignorant contributor to Iago’s web through handing him the handkerchief of Desdemona. So, first she assists Iago, and then she ‘kills’ him by revealing his betrayal. But at this point, the jealousy has already killed Desdemona; Emilia will pay a high price of her life as well; it will take Othello by suicide, and will destroy Iago through torture and punishment. Of course, the fundamental root of the tragedy is Othello’s trustfulness and insecurity, thus he listens to Iago’s words and lets himself to be cast adrift in self-doubt and failure to believe that Desdemona can truly be in love with him.

Shakespeare’s Othello is a heartrending paradigm of mankind’s legacy of doubt and disappointment, and the way they poison the free will given to us by God. The tragedy is that if Othello only would have kept believing in Desdemona’s honesty and accepted her devotion and faithfulness, he could have lived a long and happy life. However, we observe completely opposite picture in the play. In fact, the play and its tragedy could be a perfect example of how pure faith and acceptance are more valuable than contaminated free will.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello . Classic Books Company, 2001.

Korda, Natasha. Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England . University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Elster, Jon. Alchemies of the mind: rationality and the emotions . Cambridge University Press, 1999

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Othello — Themes of Jealousy, Innocence, and Revenge in Othello


Themes of Jealousy, Innocence, and Revenge in Othello

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theme of jealousy in othello essay

Home / Essay Samples / Literature / Plays / Othello Jealousy

The Theme of Jealousy in Othello

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Life , Literature

Family , Plays

Jealousy , Othello , Othello Jealousy

  • Words: 691 (2 pages)

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

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,
  • "Othello's Jealousy." Daily Times (Pakistan), 9 June 2014. EBSCOhost,

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The Theme of Jealousy in Othello

Updated 18 October 2023

Subject Plays

Downloads 27

Category Literature

Topic Literature Review ,  Othello

Jealousy is apparent throughout Shakespeare’s Othello. The tragedy Othello highlights the doom of Othello and various chief characters as a result of jealousy. Jealousy is mainly depicted through the two main characters: Othello and Iago. It destroys their lives since it makes Iago depict his true self, which successively prompts Othello to undertake total conversion that ends the lives of their friends. Shakespeare denotes how jealousy, to be specific sexual jealousy, is among the most vicious and demeaning factor of emotions. Jealousy is the tactic that Iago implements to awaken Othello's passions; jealousy too is what stimulates Iago to plan Othello's downfall. The author uses the theme of jealousy in this play to portray a feeling that every individual shares. In Othello, Shakespeare presents the idea that when Othello demands Ocular proof, Iago must provide in order to prove Desdemona's Infidelity.

Standards of proof that exist in the play

In Act 3, Scene 3, Line 360. "Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore; Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof;" Othello stresses for ocular proof, a tangible evidence that will make him believe in his wife's infidelity. This becomes the critical moment of the show. It puts Iago in a dangerous state where he has to provide a tangible evidence to back up his deceitful allegations or die (Adams, 234). This is depicted in the same act, Scene 3, where Othello states that “If thou dost slander her and torture me, Never pray more; abandon all remorse; On horror’s head horrors accumulates, Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed, for nothing canst though to damnation add, Greater than that”.

Iago gets ownership of Othello's handkerchief out of desperation in order to prove his accusation. He succeeds to convey it to Cassio's ownership. He later schemes to have Othello see Cassio playing it with Bianca. There are many damages brought by this handkerchief. First, this handkerchief facilitates Desdemona's death and second, it leads to the downfall and exposure of Iago. This happens when Emilia decrees to numerous observers that Iago had her take the ocular proof (handkerchief) from Desdemona. Moreover, this handkerchief is what makes Iago gain more trust from Othello. It stimulates Iago's ability to deceive Othello and this motivates Othello's hatred towards Desdemona and Cassio.

The ocular proof is greatly brought out in Act 3 scene 3 and Act 3 scene 4. Both events are closely related. This starts when Cassio pleads to Desdemona to talk to his husband and convince him to give Cassio his lieutenant job back. But at this point, Iago and Othello see them together which makes Cassio leave guiltily. From this, Iago uses manipulative language to convince Othello of Cassio and Desdemona's love triangle. He tries to find the ocular proof that will make him believe of wife's infidelity (Adams, 239).

The handkerchief represents the love between Othello and Desdemona since it is the first gift that Othello gave it to her (Boose, 365). It also depicts Othello’s stress. The same handkerchief falsely proved the love triangle between Cassio and Desdemona. Additionally, it reminded Othello of his wife’s infidelity whenever he saw it. Othello refers to the ocular proof in Act 5, scene 2 when he is about to kill his wife. He states, “By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in hand! O perjured woman! Thou dost stone my heart, And make me call I intend to do, A murderer, which I thought a sacrifice. I saw the handkerchief”.

Shakespeare uses imagery to bring out the ocular proof in the play. He uses the pattern of strawberries, colored with a virgins’ blood, on a white background to sturdily depict the spots left in the sheets on the wedding night of a virgin girl. This implicitly suggests that the handkerchief guarantees of fidelity as well as virginity.

Othello’s hiding spot behind bars is another ocular proof used by Shakespeare to depict Othello’s situation in the play. In Act 4, Scene 1, Othello is seen to be hiding from Cassio and Iago. This gives the feeling of being trapped. Additionally, in the movie presented in class, Othello is seen locked behind bars as he viewed. Shakespeare has used this image to enable the audience to better understand Othello’s situation - feeling small, trapped and dishonored. The bars also shows a trap that Iago has set for Othello. This is ironical since Othello does not know that he is trapped, which links with the trap set by Iago.

What role does the desire for proof play in Othello?

The desire of proof in the play is used to bring out the theme of jealousy and manipulation. To start with, Iago is seen as a master of deception and manipulation. He immensely changes the personality of Othello and this makes Othello embrace Iago's way of thinking. Iago's deceptions target Othello's jealousy all through the entire play. In Act 4, Scene 1, Iago torments Othello by dropping suggestions into his ears saying, "As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad. And his unbookish jealousy must construe poor Cassio's smiles, gestures, and light behaviour quite in the wrong". This scene provides an ocular proof that Othello is a jealous person. He could not have wanted an ocular proof and could not have hated Desdemona and Cassio to the point of killing if he was not jealous (Adams, 241).

How is jealousy depicted in the play?

Shakespeare uses the main character Othello to portray the theme of jealousy (Putman, 2). This is depicted when Iago manipulates Othello that his wife has been unfaithful. As a result of this, Othello ends up killing his wife and killing himself too. Although Iago uses jealousy to manipulate Othello, from the start of the play, it is seen that jealousy is the most likely source that drives Iago's hatred towards Othello. In the play, Shakespeare has used many forms of jealousy to show the attachment for misdirected knowledge or proof. This start from professional competition to sexual suspicion, which in all cases are destructive (Putman, 29).

The conclusion used in the play is by far the greatest part. The whole story rotates around an ocular proof that Iago must provide to Othello to show his wife's infidelity. Shakespeare has done a great job to show how an unreasonable jealousy brought by a devilish villain prompts a man to kill his wife, a woman he loves more than anything in the world. He does not want to kill her but has to fight a battle with himself. Othello loves his wife, but he feels compelled to kill her due to the way Iago has successfully managed to manipulate him and distort his thinking.

Works Cited

Adams, Maurianne S. "" Ocular Proof" in Othello and Its Source." Publications of the             Modern Language Association of America (1964): 234-241.

Boose, Lynda E. "Othello's Handkerchief:“The Recognizance and Pledge of             Love”." English Literary Renaissance 5.3 (1975): 360-374.

Fiedler, Leslie. "The stranger in Shakespeare." New York(1972).

Grennan, Eamon. "The Women's Voices in" Othello": Speech, Song,             Silence." Shakespeare Quarterly 38.3 (1987): 275-292.

Putnam, Jennifer. "Jealousy in Othello." English Journal 9 (2005).

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