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The Insecurities and Jealousy of Man: Shakespeare’s “Othello”

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 6 (1338 words)
Categories: Othello And Iago, Othello Jealousy, Shakespeare
Downloads: 25
Views: 4

There are many individuals who have insecurities but do not let jealousy prevail over their good sense’s. In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, Othello Shakespeare’s strong, powerful, and dignified Moor lets a cynical and egotistic man like Iago manipulate him into believing rumors of infidelity. This character then goes on acting upon these very same character defects in a way that brings the end to him and others. Individuals are faced with many character defects, but it is how they chose to deal with them that affects their outcome.

Othello’s inability to separate his emotions from the strict military code he has lived causes this play to end in tragedy. If it was not for this then this play would not be one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, we have come to know and love.

In an article from “psychology today” the author states, “Valuable though it can be, jealousy also has the potential to fuel damaging behavior.

It can compel someone to obsessively monitor another\’s communication, relationships, and whereabouts; attempt to lower their self-confidence, or even behave violently”. Now, jealousy can be seen throughout Shakespeare’s play Othello, mainly by two characters: Iago and Othello. Iago’s jealousy stems from Cassio getting the job role he wants and Othello’s overall success as a soldier and with Desdemona. This jealousy is clearly seen when Iago states,

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine, /A fellow almost damned in a fair wife. / That never set a squadron in the field / Nor the division of a battle knows / More than a spinster¬—unless the bookish theoric, / Wherein the togaed consuls can propose / As masterly as he. Mere prattle without practice /Is all his soldierships. But he, sir, had th’ election; /And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof / At Rodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds / Christened and heathen, must be beleed and calmed / By debitor and creditor. This countercaster, / He, in good time, must be his lieutenant be (1.121-34).
Now Iago is a fascinating, complex character who cannot be analyzed in simple means. Just when you seem to figure out the means of why he does something he goes and does something else to contradict himself. Iago is by no means an idiot and is highly intelligent. His insight into the behavior of others is nearly impeccable. This allows him to easily play upon Othello’s character defects. From the beginning of the play one can see that Iago’s not “honest Iago” (2.3.26) as made out to be and is certainly not to be trusted.

While Othello’s leadership and kindness have made him a popular general, yet he is still seen as an outsider by the Venetian people due to his skin color, lack of education, and no royal status. This is clearly seen when Othello states, “Haply, for I am black / And have not those soft parts of conversation / That chamberers have, or for I am declined / Into the vale of years—yet that’s not much — / She’s gone” (3.3.279-283). Along with Desdemona being far too beautiful in his eyes to choose him when there have been other suiters of a more proper status. Due to these factors, he sees himself as inferior to Desdemona and believes these are reasons why she would cheat on him. Othello then has an open and trusting nature about himself that leads him to being coerced by Iago. He also has a rich imagination that makes him vulnerable to Iago’s stories of Desdemona’s infidelities.

Iago is clearly a villain whose hatred of everything good is pushed to the point that he must reach out and destroy everything loving and good. When Iago’s former honest self fails and starts betraying him, he proclaims himself into a spite of jealous revenge. Not all people fall victim to jealousy though thankfully. Jealousy is a dominant issue in the play Othello, almost what the whole play is about; until we are left with the conclusion that jealousy is solely not the only thing responsible for the outcome of this play.

Now, Othello’s Jealousy comes from his insecurities and being led astray by Iago’s manipulations. When Iago states “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear, / That she repels him for her body lust; / And by how much she strives to do him good, / She shall undo her credit with the Moor. / So will I turn her virtue into pitch, / And out of her own goodness make the net / That shall enmesh them all” (2.3.307-313) clearly here he is playing on Othello’s insecurities and trying to make him jealous. It is Iago’s lies that interrupt Othello’s good human nature and bring out his jealous side, which eventually leads to the downfall of him and the everyone he loves. Othello shows just how jealousy can be one of the most corrupting and destructive emotion we have. A. C. Bradley remarks that \”His tragedy lies in this – that his whole nature was indisposed to jealousy, and yet was such that he usually open to deception, and, if one wrought to passion, likely to act with little reflection, with no delay, and in the most decisive manner conceivable” (Jain 56).

While Iago’s lies do make Othello jealous it is his pride and confidence that is hurt the most which is clearly seen when Othello states, “I fetch my life and being/ From men of royal siege” (1.2.21-2) and when he states, “My services which I have done the Signiory/ Shall out-tongue his complaints (1.2.18-19). It is easy to see that he does not want to lose the only relationship he has ever had. As stated in this article from Psych Central, Jealousy stems from feelings of inadequacy, though they are usually more conscious than with envy. However, whereas envy is the desire to possess what someone else has, jealousy is the fear of losing what we have. We feel vulnerable to losing the attention or feelings of someone close to us. It is defined as mental uneasiness due to suspicion or fear of rivalry or unfaithfulness and may include envy when our rival has aspects that we desire (Lancer).
Othello is surely one of Shakespeare’s dreariest tragedies. Given their characters and experience, both personal and cultural, Desdemona and Othello are doomed to fail. They do not know for themselves and cannot know for each other. Further, they never understand the way the world encourages their misunderstandings. We watch as Othello is reduced from a heroic general to a raging, jealous husband and murderer, out of control and duped by Iago. We see Desdemona lose her will to live and become fearful and passive. Both suffer the pains of deception, real or supposed loss of love, finial powerlessness, and death. Tragedy never allows its protagonist to escape suffering and death, but it often graces them with the knowledge of life, without which they cannot have lived in the fullest sense.

The play Othello is about when human nature struggles against its better self. Othello is not a jealous man by heart, but he is a man that is overcome by the need for pride. When his reputation is on the line his logic of thinking goes out the window. There are many individuals who have insecurities and do not let jealousy prevail over their good sense. Othello’s inability to separate his emotions from the strict military code he has lived causes this play to end in tragedy. If it was not for this then this play would not be one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, we have come to know and love. When it comes down to it were all faced with choices that we must make. In Othello’s eyes, he sees killing Desdemona as the way to redeem his honor and dignity. From how this play ends one can see that this was not the right choice to make. Shakespeare makes it evident just how insecurities affect a person and can cause something such as this tragedy to happen.

Cite this essay

The Insecurities and Jealousy of Man: Shakespeare’s “Othello”. (2020, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-insecurities-and-jealousy-of-man-shakespeares-othello-essay

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