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What does it mean to be cuckold in Othello?

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While exploring Othello, the readers will definitely see many unfamiliar words. One of them is a cuckold. This word was frequently used in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In Shakespeare’s Othello, the word cuckold represents the fear of the main character of his wife’s betrayal.

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The term “cuckold” is an old word used to describe a woman who committed an act of unfaithfulness towards her husband. The notion of cuckoldry was widely portrayed in Medieval and Renaissance English literature. This can be explained as the men’s way of feeling more superior over women.

As for Othello, the term cuckoldry first appears when Iago tricks Othello and evokes the fears of being cuckolded by his wife. The sneaky villain proclaims:

“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 2)

Othello blindly believes in Iago’s rumors about Desdemona’s adultery with Cassio. In fact, there was no such crime from both Desdemona and Cassio’s side. However, Othello was cruelly misled by Iago’s jealousy for the young lieutenant and his own insecurities.

The word “cuckold” itself alludes to the cuckoo bird’s habits, who frequently lay their eggs in the nests of other birds so that cuckoos do not have to take care of the children. Shakespeare’s cuckoldry storyline in the play was not a novel notion for the English literature of the time. In real life, such unfaithfulness from women was common in the families due to the men’s possessive attitude towards their wives.

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IvyPanda. "What does it mean to be cuckold in Othello?" November 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-does-it-mean-to-be-cuckold-in-othello/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "What does it mean to be cuckold in Othello?" November 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-does-it-mean-to-be-cuckold-in-othello/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'What does it mean to be cuckold in Othello'. 24 November.

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