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The Negative Effect of Jealousy in Othello, a Play by William Shakespeare

The Unsuspecting

Jealousy is an omnipresent emotion. It oftentimes has a negative effect on people. In Othello, the play by William Shakespeare, the protagonist ends up killing his wife because he suspects her of infidelity. While this is a heinous crime, Othello was simply a pawn in a larger plan. Therefore, he should be forgiven. Othello is a gullible fool.

Othello’s own problems lead him to murder Desdemona. He has insecurity issues with himself and is easily swayed. In the beginning of the play, Othello is confident. Iago speaks of Othello in a lowly manner oftentimes. He even calls him an “old black ram” and describes him as “tupping your white ewe” (1.1.9) when he wakens Brabantio with news of Desdemona’s marriage to Othello. Othello starts to degrade himself by saying “rude am I in speech” (1.3.96). This loss of confidence puts a dent in his relationship with Desdemona, leading up to her later departure. He is gullible for allowing Iago’s remarks to affect him. Therefore, Othello’s own naivety lead to Desdemona’s demise.

However, the blame is not all on Othello. Iago is manipulative of Othello and those around him. Othello fell into his hands, and helped set his plan in motion. Because Othello trusted Iago, it is easier for this to happen. Othello was betrayed. Iago says, “I am not what I am.” (1.1.71) This is him addressing his own deceptive qualities in a soliloquy. Later in the play, Iago wields his scheming ways by persuading Cassio to become drunk. Iago says, “ Come, lieutenant, I have a stoop of wine; and here without are a brace of Cyprus gallants that would fain have a measure to the health of black Othello.” (2.3.30-34) He uses Cassio’s desire to please Othello against him by suggesting that others would also be willing to toast a cheer to Othello. In doing so, he jeopardizes the trust that Othello put in Cassio and also causes Othello to leave Desdemona’s side when a quarrel breaks out. Othello cannot be blamed for Iago’s deception.

As aforementioned, Othello has insecurity issues. He says “For she had eyes, and chose me. No, Iago, I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; And on the proof, there is no more but this: Away at once with love or jealousy,” (3.3.220-223). As it is stated here, Othello is upset because Iago has suggested that Desdemona is not loyal. Although he says that she “had eyes and chose me,” he also states “when I doubt prove.” This shows that Othello has doubts about Desdemona himself. Othello wants to believe that she chose him, but he worries that Brabantio is right. He tells Iago to leave, but now the idea has been planted in his mind. If he were secure in his relationship with her, then he would dismiss the doubt and move on with his life.

Others may feel that Othello is guilty because he is a barbaric villain. However, this is not the case. In the final Act, Othello kills himself after discovering that he has been betrayed by Iago. Naysayers may protest by saying that he is a villain who did not want to pay the consequences of his actions, so he committed suicide, hoping to preserve his honor. This can easily be rebutted. Before he kills himself, Othello says, “kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (5.2.375) This shows that he feels remorse for his actions. He is aware that he has been played. He loved Desdemona, and now, by killing himself, he hopes to conquer the only enemy he has, himself. He is leaving life and entering death with a kiss upon her lips, just as he did before smothering her to death.

Othello went from a noble soldier to a crazed killer and back again in a matter of five acts. He had insecurity issues from the start. One vengeance seeking character played upon these weaknesses. Being dubious about his relationship allowed him to enter the wolf’s trap. Although Othello was susceptible and Desdemona’s murder was his fault, he should be forgiven. There is a lesson to be learned from him. It is not wise to let jealousy and insecurities take control.

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