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The Power of Jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello

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It’s a known fact that jealousy can cause a person to go to extreme measures in order to get what they want. With a little bit of jealousy and a spark of ambition, the evil possibilities are endless but how far exactly will an envious person go to feel fulfilled? From the beginning to the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Othello”, It is obvious that Iago is the villain of the play. Early on, he begins to plan out an evil scheme to ruin Othello’s life even though Othello has never done anything directly to him. This makes the reader wonder why anyone would be so passionate about creating destruction without any logical reasoning behind it. The hidden answer to that is his jealousy towards others, particularly Othello and Cassio. Iago is motivated by his jealousy because he craves revenge, has a deep hatred for others and is desperate for power and control.

Jealousy has the power to drive someone to crave revenge. From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare makes it clear that Iago is determined to get Othello back for betraying him. He believes that he deserves the position as lieutenant instead of Cassio and feels the need to do something about it. In act 1, he says “I know my price, I am worth no less a place.” This quote shows that he thinks he should be in Cassio’s position. He also states, “Others there are who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, keep yet their hearts attending on themselves and, throwing but shows of service on their lords.” In this quote he is telling Roderigo that this is the way he will act towards Othello. He will act loyal and dutiful but behind the scenes, he will be working for himself and doing whatever he can to defeat the moor. Another reason why Iago wants revenge on Othello is because he has suspicions that he has slept with his wife Emilia. In act 2, Iago says “For that I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat. The thought whereof doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards, and nothing shall content my soul till I am evened with him, wife for wife.” This quote is proof that he is bitter about the possibility of Othello sleeping with Emilia and is seeking revenge on him. He explains that he will do so by attempting to sleep with Desdemona. In order to successfully get revenge, one must know what actions would cause the most suffering and coincidentally, Iago is an evil character who is aware of everyone’s weakest sides. He observes his surroundings closely and understands what buttons he needs to push to set someone off which makes him an extremely dangerous character. For example, he knows that the best way to mess with Othello is through Desdemona because she means a lot to him. This makes it easy for him to play around with people’s lives because he uses their weaknesses for his own advantage. Jealousy is Othello’s downfall so Iago knows that making him jealous is the best way to get him back. The thought of getting revenge on Othello makes Iago excited and becomes one of his main motivations to execute the plan.

Iago is a villain who has a deep hatred for others and does not care for anyone but himself. He is deeply jealous of people which seems to be the reason why he resents them. His feelings about others makes it easier to go through with his plan because he feels pleasure in watching them suffer. He is so jealous of Othello and Cassio that he goes to extreme lengths to ruin their lives. If he had any love for them, he would never come up with a plan to destroy them, but his jealousy gets in the way and makes him extremely tempted to go through with it. After Othello arrives on the scene, him and Desdemona kiss and Iago turns away and says “Oh, you are well tuned now, but I’ll set down the pegs that make this music.” This quote means that he will put an end to their happiness and is evidence that he is looking forward to seeing them miserable. He also makes derogatory comments towards women and Othello because he is black. He has no sense of respect for human beings and easily hates others for no reason or out of jealousy. If Iago was not a jealous person, he would be happy for his friends’ successes instead of despising them for doing better than him. Instead, his jealousy causes him to hate others and motivates Iago to go through with this plan that will ruin their lives.

Although Iago plays a huge role in the play, his ranking in society does not give him any sort of power. His lack of power in his job makes him desperate to find other ways to control others since he is annoyed at the fact that others command him. His jealousy towards the people in power motivates him to do what he can to control others. This is why he comes up with a manipulating plan, that will not result in any major advantages for himself. He is incredibly jealous of the amount of power Othello has so he gains an obsession with playing with people’s lives so he can finally get the chance to make others do what he wants. In act two, Iago influences Cassio to get drunk and cause chaos giving him the opportunity to use him while he is vulnerable. When speaking to the reader alone, Iago says “If I can fasten but one cup upon him, with that which he hath drunk tonight already, he’ll be as full of quarrel and offense as my young mistress’ dog.” This quote proves that he is using Cassio’s drunk state of mind to his advantage, making him create chaos so he can be fired from his job. Without the use of alcohol, Iago would not be capable of playing Cassio. When Othello reports to the scene, he is furious and fires Cassio. At this point in the play, Iago feels like is plan is working in his favour because Cassio has finally been stripped from his position. This makes him feel powerful and productive because he has successfully completed the next part of his plan. This plan allows him to take control and fulfills his obsession with manipulating others to feel powerful.

Overall, Iago’s jealousy triggers him to portray his worst behaviour and makes him unstoppable. This goes to show how much of an effect jealousy can have on the way someone acts. Iago’s jealous thoughts lead him to hate others, become consumed by the fantasy of power and gives him a strong will to seek revenge. These issues result in tragic events such as the death of Othello, Desdemona, Emilia and Roderigo. Iago’s insecurities caused him to feel jealous which is the root of his main motivations. A touch of jealousy can easily escalate to a tragedy.

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The Power Of Jealousy In Shakespeare’s Othello. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-power-of-jealousy-in-shakespeares-othello/
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The Power Of Jealousy In Shakespeare’s Othello. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-power-of-jealousy-in-shakespeares-othello/> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2021].
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