Destructive Power of Jealousy in the Films ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’

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‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’ are two films depicted from William Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’. ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ is an Egyptian television film that was released in 1954, directed by Ezz El-Dine Zulficar. While ‘Othello’ is a British television film, released in 2001 and directed by Geoffrey Sax. Both films touch upon themes, such as suspicion, jealousy, loyalty betrayal and racism. There are some similarities and differences in the way the two films represent the destructive power of jealousy through a tragic hero and other characters with their flaws, their means of reaction to it, and the differences in the tragic ending of both films.

The theme of jealousy and betrayal is highlighted in ‘Othello’, where audience first get introduced to Ben Jago, the narrator and Othello’s closest friend, who is a corrupt police detective, ready to manipulate anyone, including his loved ones, in order to achieve his goal: being the next Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police. Jago was perceived by John Othello as a trustworthy friend, describing him as ‘a rock’. But after the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister chose Othello, who is black police man, to be the next Commissioner, Jago feels that he has stolen his chance to be the Commissioner himself, he feels jealous, as he has been the favorite for the job. So, Jago starts planning on how to take revenge on Othello by ruining his marriage life, evoking his suspicions towards his wife, spreading lies and convincing him that she cheats on him with Michael Cass, an attractive inspector, who he has suggested to look after Othello’s wife, Dessie, after her being attacked in the street due to a post he published on a neo-Nazi website about Othello’s marriage to a wealthy white woman. This has aroused Othello’s jealousy leading him to murder his wife and commit suicide at the end. The theme of betrayal and the destructive power of jealousy are portrayed in Jago’s ambition, which blinds him in a way that he plans to ruin his friend’s marriage life and willing to drive him out of his new job. He pretends to be the loyal friend, but in fact, he is the real enemy.

On the other hand, Mahmoud, Kamal’s best friend who is more than of a brother to him, resembles a real loyal friend. He is always taking the back of Kamal at work. He loved Wafaa, Kamal’s cousin, ever since Kamal was already married to Sanaa. But the moment he gets to know about Kamal’s intention to marry Wafaa after breaking up with Sanaa due to her cheating on him, Mahmoud immediately decides to keep his feelings to himself, wishing his best friend a happily ever after marriage. The theme of loyalty is depicted here in the loyal friend, Mahmoud, who is willing to sacrifice his love to Wafaa, his only beloved, for his friend to be happy, without getting jealous and attempting to destroy their life as in Jago’s case.

Although Mahmoud has never attempted to evoke any suspicions nor confess to Kamal about his feelings towards Wafaa, Kamal was the one who ruined his own marriage life. He was affected by his previous marriage experience, which has driven him to madness and having trust issues. It was all in his mind, unlike Othello’s case.

As a reaction to jealousy, Kamal killed the cat that Mahmoud has brought to Wafaa, whom she loved so much. The cat symbolizes the only thing Mahmoud has shared with Wafaa: his feelings. In other words, it resembles Mahmoud’s love to Wafaa. By Kamal killing it, he kills the only means connection between them. Also, at the end of the film, when he gets to confront his wife and friend, Mahmoud tries to explain the situation, and that the letter of Mahmoud’s confession about his love to Wafaa, which was Kamal’s evidence of their betrayal. Kamal's reaction to Mahmoud's attempts to prove his innocence highlights how much he is driven by jealousy and feeling of betrayal, and how much he is affected by his previous marriage experience, that he is no longer willing to trust, believe or even to listen to anyone but himself and his thoughts, and accordingly he behaves.

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Whereas, Othello’s means of reaction was insulting his wife calling her a “bitch”, asking her to tell him the truth, asking, “Who else had you?”, while she tries to defend herself answering, “Nobody, nobody ever since I met you, there has only been you”, trying to convince him that someone has been telling him lies, and that she has never been anyone’s else. Othello insists on believing the lies told by Jago, telling his wife, “I know about you and Cass, in my house, in my bed, in my room”, and as she replies, “No, you don’t know, you know nothing about me and you can’t say something like that”, he still replies, “No, I know nothing about you, but I know that I loved you too much and I wish I never set my eyes on you”. These quotations highlight how his devilish friend has occupied his mind with lies that he cannot accept anything except them. It underlines his weakness, which is his love to his wife that had been messed up. It also reveals that his lack of confidence is evoked from his feeling of interiority, when being compared to a white man in a racist society.

This opens the eyes to the last theme that has been showed in the film ‘Othello’, but hasn’t been in ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ due to cultural differences, it is the theme of racism. It has been emphasized in the way some of the white police men referring to Othello as the ‘black police officer’, looking down upon him. Not only that, racism has also been emphasized through the violence showed against the blacks. For example, in the scene of the black drug addict who has been battered to death by three white policemen, claiming it was self-defense. Whereas, if he were a white man, they would not have shown all these violence acts against him. This sheds light on the racism of the British society at that time. In ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ it is different. As in Egypt, an African Arab country, most of people are of mixed races and dark-skinned. The husband, Kamal was not portrayed as a black man as Othello, instead, he was a normal Egyptian man, neither black nor white. As for the conflict has not resulted from being black nor white but from an old unpleasant experience.

The last thing to be pointed out is the ending of the two films. Both were tragic but with slight differences. In the British film, Othello ended up smothering his wife and then committing suicide by shooting his head, after he realizes that she is innocent and clean. Then the film closes with the scene of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister choosing Jago as the new Commissioner, stating that “it is not about race or politics but love, as simple as that”. In his last quotation he explains to the audience that too much love has led to killing the loved ones, and that in this film it was not about politics nor race. This emphasizes the power of love that could be dangerous if jealousy got involved.

Whereas, in the Egyptian version, Kamal attempts to kill Wafaa, locking her in a room with him and starting to strangle her with his hand, but Mahmoud arrives to save her and they both managed to escape. It is not over yet; Kamal immediately plans to take revenge in another way. He holds the gun, with a cloth, which Mahmoud used to break into the room, and he committed suicide by shooting his head with it. Of course, Mahmoud and Wafaa were accused of killing him but they were fortune enough that the eye-witness, Nana, has proven their innocence after recovering from a shock of seeing Kamal committing suicide in front of her eyes. This scene stresses upon disastrous power of jealousy that has driven Kamal into madness to behave in such a way and ending up like that.

In conclusion, both films represent the destructive power of jealousy whether that was represented in the character of Kamal, Othello or even the cunning Jago. The message that was intended for the audience to observe is that nothing in the world can bother a man as much as their own minds. In fact, people seem to be manipulating and bothering, but it is not really them, they are just reasons, but at the end it is one’s mind that determine everything.

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Destructive Power of Jealousy in the Films ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/destructive-power-of-jealousy-in-the-films-al-shak-al-qatel-and-othello/
“Destructive Power of Jealousy in the Films ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/destructive-power-of-jealousy-in-the-films-al-shak-al-qatel-and-othello/
Destructive Power of Jealousy in the Films ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/destructive-power-of-jealousy-in-the-films-al-shak-al-qatel-and-othello/> [Accessed 23 Apr. 2024].
Destructive Power of Jealousy in the Films ‘Al Shak Al Qatel’ and ‘Othello’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 Apr 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/destructive-power-of-jealousy-in-the-films-al-shak-al-qatel-and-othello/
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