The Green-Eyed Monster’s Strong Yet Powerless

Categories: William Shakespeare

A wise philosopher, Aristotle defined jealousy as “both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy.”William Shakespeare’s Othello, illustrates a moral tragedy regarding the character of Othello to unearth that jealousy demoralizes one when a third party orchestrates the tragedy. For the own benefit of Iago, his manipulation coerces Othello into a trapped victim and like a puppeteer, plays upon his jealous tendencies, leading to his downfall of a remorseful murdering.

This goes to show that in the theme of jealousy, a filtered mentality is a contradiction granting both inner strength and an impotent mindset to manipulation, perpetual implications certainly heightens one’s chakra of jealousy, causing invincible tragedy, and a vulnerable person involved in detrimental relations cultivates a green-eyed monster. Through Othello’s devotion into a mad, jealous monster created by Iago, Shakespeare explores the darkness of the mind, and the vulnerability of the heart, to conclude that even the most dignified of military heroes can fall victim to something as trivial as jealousy.

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The pureness of the mind is a walking paradox as it could highlight inner strength or leave oneself defenceless to exploitation. Despite his tragic end, Othello originally behaves not jealous at all, but clear-minded and confident, the jealousy nowhere to be seen, subdued by his duty to Venice as well as his love for Desdemona.

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For instance, when Othello elopes with Desdemona and swords are drawn as a result of Brabantio’s accusations and demands for prison, Othello calmly commands, “Hold your hands,/ Both of you my inclining and the rest,” and demands Brabantio, “Whither will you that I go/ To answer this your charge?” . Since Othello is yet untouched by Iago’s poison, his mind is crystal clear and free from anything irrational. This apollonian attitude serves as a contradiction to the Dionysian constitution later on, when he is falling into hypnotic states as jealousy consumes him. Othello’s calm demeanour and confidence serve as a disadvantaged blank canvas for Iago to contaminate and gradually but effectively paint his destiny. Later, when Othello has arrived in Cyprus to find Desdemona before him, he addresses her as his “fair warrior” and refers to her as his “soul’s joy,” he also claims that he “cannot speak enough of this content./ It stops [him] here; it is too much of joy” . Shakespeare depicts Othello’s love for Desdemona as something very genuine and very pure, and this undying love keeps Othello’s jealousy from surfacing. Neither Othello nor Desdemona would ever consider adultery at this point, nor, without adding Iago’s manipulation into the mix, at any time in their future; they love each other too much. Verbal irony is presented when Othello claims this love is “too much of joy,” because this scene is one of the last times one will see Othello unpolluted by Iago’s manipulating words.

However soon enough, Iago’s constant insinuations act as the perfect catalyst in breeding jealousy in Othello, creating an insurmountable series of tragedies. After Othello escapes punishment for eloping with Desdemona, Brabantio bitterly gives him a warning: “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see;/ She has deceived her father, and may thee” . Although Brabantio relates this well before Othello begins his degeneration, his words carry a heavy gravity that weighs down Othello’s confidence. Brabantio’s words foreshadow a premonition of a tragic outcome before it strikes. Iago’s repetition of these lines, later on, strike a chord in Othello’s heart, and this expedites the growth of jealousy inside his mind. Furthermore, when Othello strikes Desdemona, Lodovico asks, “Is this the noble Moor… / Whom passion could not shake, whose solid virtue/ The shot of accident nor dart of chance could neither graze nor pierce?” . Lodovico’s shock verbally affirms Othello’s transformation, as Lodovico has been in Venice the whole time Iago has been poisoning Othello in Cyprus. Thus, he arrives unaware of the changes happening all around the island. The contrast between the two Othellos exhibits the metamorphic powers of jealousy and that no man has the mental immunity to jealousy to overpower. A short period of time was enough for Iago to do the damage of a 180-degree flip on Othello’s personality. It is founded that “Pathological jealousy can be triggered by the behaviour of the partner and maintained by reasoning biases and by the psychological benefits that it initially bestows on the relationship. In the long run, however, it poses dangerous risks to the patient, the partner, and the imagined rival so that involuntary hospitalization is sometimes required.” Othello reveals his pathological jealousy behaviour when Desdemona’s handkerchief, which symbolizes her love with Othello, was stolen, leaving her to be in an unguarded position to getting framed. Since Iago was behind this mastermind plan, he is aware of Othello’s weaknesses and perfectly implies biases and the psychological reasoning that Desdemona is betraying their love for Cassio. The attack in Othello’s weak spot, in turn, activated a fatal impulsivity and impelled an inevitable spell that killed his lover, Desdemona.

A vulnerable heart and toxic relationships are the triggers to complete the transformation of a full-fledged monster. Accordingly, as Iago’s lies begin to take over Othello’s mind, Iago relishes, “Not poppy nor mandragora/ Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world/ Shall ever med’cine thee to that sweet sleep/ Which thou owed’st yesterday” . Iago uses plant imagery to convey the concept of sleeplessness as a sign of a disturbed mind, as Othello is deeply unsettled by Desdemona’s supposed adultery, and by this point, his mind has already begun to decay, even before the “ocular proof” has been presented. The certainty Iago acquires so soon that Othello will always stay in a disturbed and unpeaceful mentality will prove how hastily Othello jumps to conclusions in the effect of his inherent jealous nature. In addition, when Desdemona first becomes aware of Othello’s jealous wrath but refuses to deem it as such, Emilia points out that “jealous souls… / Are not ever jealous for the cause,/ But jealous for they’re jealous/ It is a monster/ Begot upon itself, born upon itself”. Emilia’s description of jealousy as a monster reflects that which Iago mentioned earlier, to Othello. The repetition of the comparison, as well as the isolation of jealousy being “born on itself,” emphasizes the painting of jealousy as a hungry, destructive monster. The statement also reaffirms Shakespeare’s assertion that jealousy causes destruction as it consumes the heart and mind.

Iago’s debasement of Othello into a jealous killer is Shakespeare’s way of exploring the darkness and vulnerability of humanity, and it relates a tragedy meant to stir pity and revulsion in the reader. Othello goes from a well-respected commanding officer to a pitiful, wounded man whose only source of solace is death. Jealousy overpowers the good in Othello, rotting his mind and causing the insecurities in his heart to fester. It has the ability to affect anyone, and that is what makes jealousy so dangerous: it possesses no discretion or immunity; it truly is a monster.

Updated: Feb 14, 2024
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The Green-Eyed Monster’s Strong Yet Powerless. (2024, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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