Jealousy is the primary plot-driving force in Shakespeare’s Othello. Throughout the plot development, numerous characters experience this feeling. Iago’s personal and professional jealousy plays a crucial role in the play’s progress. Besides, Othello, Bianca, and Roderigo also face jealousy.
The entire plot of Othello is based on the theme of jealousy. The main character occupied by this feeling is Iago. Being professionally unfulfilled, he is jealous of Cassio. Iago cannot put up with the fact that Cassio took the lieutenant position instead of him. Raging at the lieutenant, Iago highlights Cassio’s lack of military skills:
“And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn’d 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 toged consuls can propose
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
Is all his soldiership.”
(Act 1, scene 1).
Besides, Iago secretly desires Desdemona. So, another example of the grudge is Iago’s personal jealousy towards Othello.
Roderigo is another character who experiences jealousy. Being in love with Desdemona, he is desperately trying to conquer her heart. However, he underestimates the extent of her feelings for Othello. Roderigo relies on Iago to destroy the trust between Desdemona and Othello. Yet, he doesn’t realize that Iago uses him to fulfill his evil plan. Thus, Roderigo becomes a victim of his jealousy and Iago’s villainy.
Iago is one of the cleverest villains in Shakespeare’s texts. He uses jealousy to plant doubt in Othello’s mind. The character manipulates Othello, exploiting his primary weakness – the fear of betrayal. As the readers can see, Othello starts to doubt Desdemona’s faithfulness. Thus, Iago’s methods are successful. One of the villain’s tools for reaching his objective is innuendos about Desdemona’s infidelity. Iago uses a famous metaphor that compares jealousy to a “green-eyed monster”:
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!”
(Act 3, scene 3)
Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, becomes an instrument in Iago’s hands to evoke jealousy. To convince the Moor of his wife’s infidelity, the villain leaves Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s room. This small piece of tissue plays a detrimental role in Desdemona’s fate. As it turned out, the handkerchief is incredibly significant for the woman. When Desdemona notices its absence, she becomes extremely concerned:
“Sure, there’s some wonder in this handkerchief:
I am most unhappy in the loss of it.”
(Act 3, scene 4)
The situation with the handkerchief leads to the plot reaching its peak. Even though Othello’s jealousy has many shapes, it is primarily shown in his interactions with Iago. Here is when the character is not restrained in showing emotions. Later, jealousy leads to the death of both spouses: Othello and Desdemona.
In addition to Iago, Othello, and Roderigo, Bianca also experiences jealousy. Despite her rare appearance in the play, she plays a vital role for the plot development. Bianca is a prostitute who sincerely loves Cassio. However, the lieutenant treats her unfairly. Instead of revealing his true feelings, he only feeds her with empty promises. Due to such Casso’s attitude, Bianca becomes jealous. Suspecting that the lieutenant doesn’t love her, she reveals the secret that lies behind the handkerchief:
“Let the devil and his dam haunt you! What did you
mean by that same handkerchief you gave me even now?
I was a fine fool to take it. I must take out the
work?–A likely piece of work, that you should find
it in your chamber, and not know who left it there!
This is some minx’s token, and I must take out the
work? There; give it your hobby-horse: wheresoever
you had it, I’ll take out no work on’t”
(Act 4, scene 1)
Bianca’s jealousy helps Iago in fulfilling his plan. Thus, the villain manipulates the surrounding people playing with their feelings.
Overall, jealousy functions as the primary plot-moving force in the play. It forms relationships between characters, motivates their actions, and accelerates events. Roderigo, Othello, Iago, and Bianca are the characters experiencing jealousy. The examples vary from romantic to professional, with the first predominating.