In the play, the phrase “the green eyed monster” referrers to jealousy. In Act 3, Scene 3, while trying to make Othello envious, Iago uses this phrase. The villain plants the seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s betrayal. As a result, the Moor is blinded by jealousy and mistreats his wife.
The most well-known use of the phrase “the green-eyed monster” was utilized by Shakespeare in Othello. Particularly in Act 3, Scene 3, the character Iago attempts to fool the protagonist. He is implying that his beloved wife, Desdemona, is involved in an affair. A famous quote is used by Iago to make Othello jealous. While talking to the Moor about Desdemona, the villain exclaims:
“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)
The famous phrase serves as a vivid and bright expression to describe envy.
The reason why Shakespeare is using color as symbolism for emotion is related to the historical context of the play. Renaissance England had a tradition of matching feelings with specific colors. Thus, the green color was associated with jealousy and envy. However, Shakespeare also included the fascinating imagery of a monster to reinforce the message. Jealousy is a dangerous and consuming feeling, which is vividly represented by the idea of a beast. The phrase is significant because Shakespeare has turned the color metaphor into the famous idiomatic. As a result, the incredibly visual term “the green-eyed monster” is widely used even nowadays.
Referencing colors can be a writer’s way to convey specific emotions without directly naming them. This can positively contribute to the poetic feeling of the work and play with the audience’s imagination.