Theme of Jealousy in "Othello"

1. Introduction
Jealousy is a mental cancer. It is an emotion, and the word typically refers to the thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, concern and anxiety over an anticipated loss or status of great personal value, particularly in reference to a human connection. Five characters in "Othello" by Shakespeare are victims of jealousy. Iago and Bianca are jealous about Cassio, Brabantio, Roderigo and Iago are jealous about Othello, and Othello becomes jealous of Desdemona. Emilia is not jealous about anyone but has a theory that jealousy is a constituent part of masculinity. Except Brabantio's jealousy of Othello and Iago's jealousy of Cassio, all characters are suffering from sexual jealousy - a jealousy which is triggered in a person when a sexual partner displays sexual interest in another person.
2. Iago's Jealousy of Cassio
Iago is a soldier who fights alongside Othello in his army. Proving loyal with every fight, Iago assumes that the upcoming promotion for lieutenant is imminent. Unfortunately, the promotion is given to Micheal Cassio instead. Iago cannot understand this appointment because Cassio is an inexperienced soldier who has no practical knowledge of battle. He is a man of theoretical learning. On the other hand, Iago is given the job of Ensign, or flag-bearer that is humiliating for a man who considers himself intellectually superior to everyone around him. Iago thus becomes jealous of Cassio who is now of higher rank and is young and handsome to boot.
3. Iago's Jealousy of Othello
Othello is a general in the Venetian defense forces. He is newly and happily married to an aristocratic Venetian woman, Desdemona. Iago is jealous of Othello's position and his ability to woo the young and alluring Desdemona. It is possible that Iago has his own secret passion for the Moor's new bride, and he is enraged at the idea of the "old black ram" attaining what he himself desires. Moreover, Iago is stuck in a loveless marriage to a woman who frequently nags him. Thus he is jealous of Othello and Desdemona's happiness in love. The jealously gets intensified when he hears a rumor that Othello has been sleeping with his wife, Emilia.
4. Brabantio's Jealousy of Othello
Brabantio is Desdemona's father. He is jealous of the Moor for stealing his daughter's love. He accuses his new son-in-law of being a "foul-thief". He becomes jealous because he knows that he will no longer be the most important person in Desdemona's life. After Desdemona makes it clear that she loves and honours her husband, Brabantio remains vindictive, and bitterly warns Othello that Desdemona may turn out to be a slut:
Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee
No father has ever expressed a more hateful jealousy of his son-in-law as Brabantio.
5. Roderigo's Jealousy of Othello
Roderigo is a wooer of Desdemona. The lovesick Roderigo has trouble with his feelings for Desdemona and is jealous watching Othello and Desdemona in love. He follows Iago's directions easily because of his jealousy of Othello's relationship with Desdemona. Along with Iago and Brabantio, he berates and criticizes Othello about everything, including race. He expresses his jealousy of Othello's marriage to Desdemona by exclaiming,
What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe
If he can carry't thus!
6. Bianca's Jealousy of Cassio
Bianca is Cassio's prostitute girlfriend. She becomes sick with jealousy when Cassio gives her a handkerchief in order to copy Desdemona's handkerchief for him. Bianca is already unhappy with Cassio because he has not been to see her in a week, and the sight of a woman's handkerchief gives her an attack of jealousy. She throws handkerchief back at Cassio, tells him that he should give it to the whore he got it from, and declares that no matter where he got it, she is not about to copy it. Though Bianca's jealousy exists on a much smaller scale, it illustrates that the sentiment is universal.
7. Othello's Jealousy of Desdemona
Iago plants the seed of jealousy in Othello in Act 3, Scene 3. Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona has been an unfaithful wife; she has an affair with Cassio. Othello believes Iago's lies, despite that there is not much evidence. His jealousy leads him to be too trusting of Iago. As he begins to believe the accusations, his love, affection and kindness for Desdemona fade away. Othello's jealousy reaches its peak when his token of love for Desdemona, the handkerchief, is shown up in Cassio's possession. Othello is completely convinced that Desdemona is unfaithful and he kills her because he has not way to resolve his jealousy.
8. Iago's Remarks About Jealousy
Iago describes jealousy as a "green-eyed monster". The meat that this monster feeds on is a person's heart, which it eats away. At the same time, the monster mocks that person's heart, so that he or she feels shame. And the monster is insatiable, always gnawing away, so that the jealous person is never at peace.
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on;
Iago also describes jealousy as a "poison" that consumes the jealous person, eating away at him and filling him with a passionate desire for revenge.
9. Emilia's Remarks About Jealousy
Emilia believes that jealousy does not need a cause. It is a beast that is born of itself and feeds on itself. The root of jealousy is not some action of infidelity but insecurity on the part of the one jealous. Throughout the play, Iago accuses Emilia of being unfaithful to him, just as Othello accuses Desdemona. She has never been untrue to Iago as Desdemona has never been untrue to Othello. Thus jealousy does not need an unfaithful act to inspire it. It is a part of a man or woman's nature.
But jealous souls will not be answer'd so;
They are not ever jealous for the cause,
But jealous for they are jealous: 'tis a monster
Begot upon itself, born on itself.
10. Conclusion
In short, jealousy, rooted in fear and anger, is a bad emotion to feel and bad quality to possess. Jealous people do very foolish things, particularly in the case of romantic and sexual jealousy. Abnormal jealousy is a very complex, passionate and fatal emotion that devours those who allow it to dominate their lives. This "green-eyed monster" kills Roderigo, Desdemona, Emilia and Othello. Brabantio has also died and Iago will die in the near future after a drawn out punishment. It is ironic that almost all of the characters in the play feel jealous about things that never actually happened -- baseless jealousy for the most part provokes their outbursts.
Notes Prepared By: Prof. Shahbaz Asghar