The Green Eyed Monster.
No other monster is as terrifying.
It fangs go deeper than Dracula’s.
Unlike the Werewolf, its malevolent form haunts you not only at night, but every hour of the day, every second.
But what makes it more terrifying, of course, is that it’s real. Everyone at some stage falls victim to jealousy. Shakespeare’s Othello gives us a glimpse of what 17th Century English society thought about Jealousy as a motivating force.
Good afternoon students and teachers.
In 17th Century England, in a society that believed in the devil and of eternal damnation, jealousy is described as a kind of demonic creature within Othello. Iago, for instance, in his famous personification, calls jealousy the “green-eyed monster, which doth mock/ The meat it feeds on” and Othello ascribes various demonic features to it: “Even then this forked plague is fated to us/ When we do quicken”. Jealousy was seen as evil, and even Satan was referred to as The Envious man. It is Emilia who sums up the Elizabethan attitude towards jealousy: “They are not ever jealous for the cause/But jealous, for they’re jealous. It is a monster/ Begot upon itself, born on itself”. The Elizabethans believed that jealousy was something beyond our control, therefore, it was an external motivating force, not the fault of the character.
If Satan is The Envious man, than Iago is the devil on stage. It is ultimately the jealousy that consumes Iago which motivates him to exact ‘revenge’ on Othello and Cassio- but not only this, jealousy is essentially Iago’s motivation for living. Iago is utterly consumed by a raging torment: he is professionally and socially jealous of Othello and Cassio, he is jealous of Othello’s success with Desdemona, he suspects every man of bedding his wife: in barely 10 lines in Act 2 he accuses both Othello and Cassio of “twist my sheets… done my office”. He is even jealous of Cassio’s looks: “He hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly”. He is able to describe the pangs of jealousy vividly, in Act 2 as “like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards.. .” and wants to get even with Othello “wife for wife”. Without jealousy, Iago wouldn’t have any motivation to live, which corresponds to the Elizabethan portrayal of jealousy as ‘the wish and desire to obtain’.
“I will chop her into messes!” Othello’s exclamation orchestrates the savage jealousy which motivates him to strangle Desdemona in her bed. Othello embodies the many different forms of jealousy the Elizabethans recognised. In Othello’s psychology, Desdemona is his chattel, and it is Othello’s possessive sexual jealousy that motivates him to kill Desdemona, for he cannot bare any other man to have what is his. Furthermore, it is also Othello’s excessive pride as a form of jealousy that motivates him to kill Desdemona rather than be ridiculed.
Jealousy as a motivating force in Elizabethan society, was a force of many forms. It ensnared the best and worst of people, and in terms of the actions it made people carry out, the metaphor of a monster is appropriate for the emotion.