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Jealousy As The Consequence Of Human Frailty In Othello

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Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello explores how the frailty of the human condition can engender dire consequences, and significantly contributes to the play’s relevance across changing societies. Othello’s vulnerability causes his susceptibility to overwhelming jealousy, which compels his transformation from a noble to wicked character. The overpowering nature of jealousy caused the internal collapse of Othello, evoking his descent from a virtuous general to a volatile murderer. Human frailty is further depicted through Iago’s deception, which instigates Othello’s conflicted identities. Iago’s used his deceptive and deceitful nature to carefully manipulate Othello and others, through his trustworthy appearance and malevolent reality. Both Othello and Iago are motivated to betray those that place trust in them, and ultimately results in devastating and tragic consequences. Shakespeare’s consideration of these facets of the human condition contribute to the enduring relevance of his play.

The frailty of the human condition can allow overwhelming jealousy to cause a transformation in character with tragic consequences. The consuming essence of jealousy is seen in Shakespeare’s play through Othello’s descent from an honourable general to a wicked murderer. Othello’s “valiant” and “noble” temperament is described by the Duke and senators of Venice in the introduction of the play. However, he gradually becomes more rash and volatile, as a result of being consumed by jealousy over his wife, Desdemona, and he violently claims that he would “tear her to pieces”. This metaphor suggests that human frailty can lead all-consuming and transformative jealousy, elucidated through Othello’s progressive irrationality despite his initial noble and honourable nature and eventually resulting his murder of his wife. His final soliloquy provides insight to a contemplative Othello, as he reflects on his homicidal actions and compares himself to being “like the base Indian” who “threw a pearl away richer than his tribe”. This simile is implicative of Othello’s realisation of the tragic consequences of allowing himself to be controlled by jealousy. Shakespeare’s exploration of the nature of jealousy has enduring relevance across both his contemporary and our modern-day audience as the human condition remains constant over changing societies. Critic Axel Kruse states that “Othello is seen to be possessed and transformed by jealousy in a way which evokes the ideals of evil and satanic possession”, further supporting Othello’s drastic change in character as a result of his jealousy. Iago’s metaphoric description of Othello as a “green-eyed monster” insinuates that jealousy is overwhelming and transforms Othello into a monstrous character, where his personification of jealousy further suggests the devastating consequences of human frailty. Shakespeare depicts Othello’s vulnerability to explore how human frailty can result in overwhelming jealousy, with dire and tragic consequences.

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Human frailty can allow deception to engender conflicted identities, resulting in uncertainty over appearances and reality which can cause devastating consequences. This is suggested through Iago’s deceptive nature, where manipulating Othello’s trust in him to eventually instigate the murder of Desdemona and further explores human frailty to elucidate the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s play. Othello describes Iago as having a “learned spirit of human dealings” with “exceeding honesty” suggesting Iago’s appearance as obliging and supportive. This misleading faith and trust allows Iago to utilise his deceptive nature to manipulate Othello’s insecurities, causing Othello’s conflict between his nobility and wickedness. Iago’s deception is further elucidated in his plans to “pour this pestilence into his ear” and cause Othello’s downfall, metaphorically indicating Iago’s contrasting trustworthy appearance and his true deceitful character. Iago’s desire to continuously manipulate Othello is depicted in his extended metaphor of ‘ear’ as he plots “to abuse Othello’s ear”. Othello’s human frailty results in his susceptibility to Iago’s deception, and indicates the enduring relevance of Shakepeare’s play through the depiction of vulnerable and deceptive nature of the human condition, which persists across changing contexts.

The vulnerability and frailty of the human condition can induce tragic consequences by allowing motivations for betrayal to transpire. This is portrayed through both Othello and Iago, whose catalysts for betrayal are fuelled by jealousy and hatred respectively, ultimately resulting in a distingration of trust and loyalty. Othello’s betrayal of Desdemona is driven by Iago’s manipulation of his fatal flaw of jealousy, indicated as he begins to question his trust in Desdemona when exclaiming, “My life upon her faith!’. Othello’s human frailty leads to his progressively betrayal of Desdemona, suggested through his biblical allusion when he claims, “If she be false, O then heaven mocks itself, I’ll not believe it”, revealing how his loyalty to Desdemona is disintegrating due to his human frailty. Iago’s motivations for betrayal were driven by hatred, prejudice and anger towards Othello. Iago’s fragmented language when he claims, “I hate the Moor. My cause is hearted” insinuates Iago’s discriminatory attitude and anger towards Othello by calling him a ‘Moor’, suggesting his motivations to cause Othello’s downfall. Iago’s simile when comparing his contempt to being “like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards” is further implicative of Iago’s motivations of malevolence again Othello, and is in accordance with critic Nevill Cognill’s suggestion that “psychologically Iago is a slighted man, powerfully possessed by hatred against a master who (as he thinks) has kept him down”. Iago’s animalistic metaphor of Othello as ‘an old black ram is tupping’ the ‘white ewe’ is further discriminatory Iago’s characterisation as a racist character indicates the enduring relevance of Shakepeare’s play as the prevalence of discrimation spans across varying societal contexts. Through Othello and Iago’s motivations for betrayal, Shakespeare implies that human frailty can lead to devastating consequences and further suggests the surviving relevance of his play.

Shakespeare’s play Othello explores how human frailty can cause devastating consequences, and remains relevant to societies overtime. Othello’s human frailty causes him to be prone to overwhelming jealousy, which transforms him from an honourable general to volatile murderer. Human frailty is further revealed through deception, particularly in Iago, which provokes conflicted identities within Othello. Both Othello and Iago are motivated to betray those that have faith in them, eventually resulting in devastating consequences. Shakespeare’s incorporation of these views of the human frailty contribute to the lasting relevance of his

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Jealousy As The Consequence Of Human Frailty In Othello. (2021, September 07). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Jealousy As The Consequence Of Human Frailty In Othello.” Edubirdie, 07 Sept. 2021,
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Jealousy As The Consequence Of Human Frailty In Othello [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 07 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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