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Jealousy In Othello Essay, Research Paper

What is the most disastrous human emotion? William Shakespeare s Othello makes it clear that the answer to this question is jealousy. After all, it is jealousy that drives Iago to concoct the plan, which ruins the lives of several innocent people including Othello, Desdemona, Emilia, and Roderigo. This play poses a distinct character foil between Shakespeare s vilest villain, Iago, and the honest, but easily mislead Othello. This tragedy is mostly based upon Iago s suggestion of an affair between Othello s wife, Desdemona, and the lieutenant Cassio. As a loving, trusting husband, Othello at first does not want to believe the insinuations, but his feelings are distorted by the cunning Iago into believing his base slander. Othello s soliloquy in Act III depicts this transformation of his character from an understanding, straightforward man to an angry, suspicious, and jealous husband. The soliloquy begins by Othello complimenting Iago for his help and expert understanding of human nature. This fellow s of exceeding honesty, and knows all [qualities], with a learn d spirit, of human dealings. Othello truly believes that Iago is an honest and loyal friend, although the reality is quite the opposite. Othello also feels that Iago knows much about the topic of human dealings with each other. While Othello understands and is an expert at the making of war, he terribly misunderstands people and potential ulterior motives. Othello continues with, If I do prove her haggard, though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings, I d whistle her off and let her down the wind to prey at fortune. In this excerpt Othello says that if he finds Desdemona is really wild and is a strumpet he shall turn her out and force her to fend for herself in the world, even if it breaks his heart. The word jesse refers to the string that a falcon s leg is tied to in order to keep it close to its owner during hunting. In this sense, Othello is comparing Desdemona to a wild animal pulling on the jesse, which are metaphorically his heartstrings or caring emotions. The passage then continues with, Haply, for I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation that chamberers have, or for I am declin d into the vale of years, yet that s not much. This is a reference to all of Othello s perceived faults. First, he is a Moor, dark in color and generally not acceptable. Second, he admits to lack the ability to speak in an educated manner as would the chamberers , or educated courtiers. Finally, the vale of years is a sorrowful reference to Othello being much older than Desdemona. In the next lines, She s gone. I am abus d: and my relief must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage, that we can call these delicate creatures ours, and not their appetites! I had rather be a toad and live upon the vapour of a dungeon than keep a corner in the thing I love for others uses. Othello feels Desdemona is lost and his only relief from his anguish is to hate her with a passion. He speaks of the curse of marriage , which is that men may call these creatures (again, a reference to women being animals in nature) their own, but not their appetite to have lovers outside of the marriage. He then wishes himself to be the lowest of creatures in a filthy dungeon than to have anything to do with Desdemona, who is used by other men as a strumpet. Instead of her name, he uses the pronoun thing , as if she no longer deserves to be called a human being. Continuing, he says, Yet tis the plague [of] great ones; prerogativ d are they less than the base. Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. Even then this forked plague is fated to us when we do quicken. Othello seems to be saying that the plague of great leaders (pridefully referring to himself) is to ultimately have privileges less than a base illegitimate child. This, to Othello, is a fate, which cannot be altered, like death and this forked plague , or cuckold s curse is predestined when a man is born This soliloquy sets the emotional tone for the remaining portion of the play. Othello exhibits several emotions while speaking these lines. Intense sadness is portrayed in the jesses were my heartstrings line. He deeply loves Desdemona, and yet he must to hate her because of what he perceives she has done to him. His anger is reflected in the lines must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage and there is self-hatred when he says he would rather be a toad, or when he is recounting his faults. Pride is displayed as he speaks of himself as a great one , but it is extinguished when he thinks of what Iago has hinted Desdemona has done. Othello is woefully sarcastic as he says, Prerogativ d (privileged) are they less than the base, because one would normally think the opposite. The relevance of this passage is to show the transition from Othello s usual, calm, collected, and honest persona to a self-hating, jealous, sad, angry, and spiteful man. It is the point of no return for Othello, leaving no doubt in the reader s mind the reason behind Othello s subsequent decisions involving himself and the other characters in the play. This allows it to be smooth and flowing from one state of Othello s mind to another. These lines show how deeply Iago has influenced Othello with his innuendoes regarding Desdemona s infidelity. The syntax of the soliloquy seems to be more prose than rhyme, leaving the reader to follow the punctuation for the most help in reading the passage. The soliloquy is the end of the corruption scene. Iago has carefully planted the seeds of jealousy. Othello s insecurity becomes the theme that weakens his resolve to not doubt Desdemona s fidelity to him. He doubts her love of him because of his misconception of himself as unattractive, poorly spoken, and old, thus believing in her guilt. Othello s picture of himself directly influences how he sees Desdemona s love, though there should not be confusion between these two things at all. In truth, this is one of the most well spoken and complex soliloquies in the entire play.

Othello s Jealousy In Shakespeare s Othello we are introduced into a web of a world entangled with lies, jealousy, and ultimately tragedy. We observe as Iago single handedly destroys the matrimony shared between Othello and the beautiful Desdemona. He does so with a flurry of deceit and trickery, playing upon one of the strongest human emotions, that of jealousy. Iago offers a story of betrayal to his master Othello, which ensnares his soul in a jealous rage of infidelity and honesty. Iago convinces his master that his beloved wife, Desdemona, is false in her virtue and with his right hand man Cassio nonetheless. Iago offers many proofs to his lord, most of which are deceitful, but alas some that only work to spark the flame of jealousy in Othello. We shall examine each one and unravel Iago s plan to dethrone his lord Othello, the Moor whom he despises so much. We first find Iago sparking the flame of jealousy in Othello s brain when he asks of the honesty of Cassio, as well as Desdemona. Iago sly as he may be begins Othello to suspect that Desdemona and Cassio may share a love for one another. He offers that he has seen them whispering to one another and laughing amongst themselves as if to inquire a flirtation amongst them. Othello doesn t seem to believe such things because he knows they are friendly and that he trusts the integrity and honesty of them both. This first isn t really a proof but just a beginning in a clever plan to enrage Othello. It is credible since Cassio and Desdemona are friendly and is only used, once again, as a spark to begin the fire. Iago s words burn into Othello s brain as he begins to become jealous and suspect things. At a time when he is extremely upset about thinking about such things Iago enters and begins to feed him more proofs . Iago tells Othello that one night when he was sleeping by Cassio, he being one to talk in his sleep, Cassio grabbed him and began kissing him and confessing his love for Desdemona. Claiming that he was upset that she had married the Moor. Iago went a step further and planted a handkerchief in Cassio s room, one that Othello had given Desdemona as a gift, and proclaimed that he saw Cassio with such a handkerchief. Othello s jealousy began to rage as we see his anger and thoughts become impure. This proof holds credibility in that Cassio did posses the handkerchief, but knew not of its origin or meaning. But it is truly false since Iago planted it in Cassio s room to merely look as if it were given to him. Finally Iago takes the final step in turning Othello s flame of jealousy into a burning pit of hell in his soul. Iago tells Othello that Cassio had told him that he lay with Desdemona, and further more tricked Othello in to overhearing a conversation of Cassio explaining his relations with another woman. We find Othello to be consumed with rage and jealousy, as he sees no other alternative but to have them both murdered. Iago s final proof is not credible at all since it is a lie, but his trickery has and cleverness has made it seem to Othello that everything Iago has spoken is truth. The proofs we have been presented with truly hold no credibility what so ever, but when used by a devilishly clever man as Iago, they appear to be truthful in every sense of the word. I find that credibility can be deceiving, especially when one whom you trust so much is the very one who is deceiving you. I find no credibility in any of Iago s proofs but then again I am the reader and know all, where as if I weren t I may have been deceived myself, just as tragic Othello was. I find also that Iago may have been credible in one respect, that he knew the grasp that jealousy could have on a mans soul and exposed this in Othello. For at first he began Othello s suspicions by telling him what he really saw, that Cassio and Desdemona were friendly, and built upon that a web of deceit that ensnared Othello s body and soul . This tragedy ultimately brings out credibility of one proof, that being that jealousy is one of the strongest human emotions and just as hate, it can consume you to.


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