Shakespeare constructs Othello to be the perfect example of how jealousy degrades one’s identity and morals. Jealousy deconstructs the rationalism and nobility that he once upheld. Illustrating his fall from grace, succumbing to the archetypal possessive, patricidal husband that dominated Elizabethan society. Shakespeare portrays how jealousy is an innate emotion that can be triggered in anyone; Lago is used to play ‘devil’s advocate’, acting as a catalyst for the downfall of even the most stable relationship. As he blurs the line between reality and illusion. However, at the route of all jealousy there is a cause, as Shakespeare portrays it to be an emotion that develops in a relationship, rather than existing without a cause.
Othello’s oxymoronic speech in the extract depicts his categorical decline of self-assurance; he does not know or believe anymore, rather he only “think my wife be honest and think she is not”. This is a significant contrast to his strength of character in Act one Scene two, where he exclaims “My parts, my title, my perfect soul – Shall manifest me rightly”. It is a depiction how jealousy has developed with in him, causing an alienation of character, as it was never present in the start of Desdemona and Othello’s relationship. Othello being a man or war and violence would be unaccustomed to dealing with such personal emotions. Furthermore, his frenzied reaction to discovering Desdemona has slept with another man, alludes to the fact they have not consummated their marriage. This would come as an extreme insult to his pride and loyalty which are two values upheld the most by an Elizabethan man, especially one of his hierarchal position in the Venetian Army. Iago insights graphic images in Othello’s mind, he uses animalistic imagery to portray how Desdemona and Cassio would have slept together. “Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys as salt as wolves in pride”. From a historicist perspective we understand why such vulgar language is being used, not only to insight extreme anger and jealousy, but because the act of sex during the Elizabethan period was considered far more sacred in a marital relationship. So, it is a direct insult Othello’s authority in the relationship as well as his masculinity. Shakespeare originally portrays Desdemona and Othello’s relationship to be seamless and defiant, similarly to Romeo and Juliet’s relationship their love knows no boundaries. However, they are ‘star crossed lovers’, and despite their best interests their fate has already been preconstructed. It is arguable that jealousy is the most effective emotion and tenant used in Shakespeare’s tragedies as it breeds mannerisms that are a stark contrast to character’s original personality.
Critic Samuel Coleridge argues Iago’s monologues are “the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity”, while this may be true, and some view his quest to destroy Desdemona and Othello’s relationship as unprovoked. From a psychoanalytical perspective his manipulation is merely a cowardly projection of his own woes he Is facing with Emilia. As it is only spoken of once that Emilia may have committed adultery, as Iago states “it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office”. Shakespeare is portraying an intricate representation of the way in which jealousy has poisoned Iago, his repetitive questioning in the extract, “What then? How then? What shall I say? Where’s satisfaction?”, depicts a derangement of character similar to that of Othello, it reflects Shakespeare’s understanding that jealousy is a toxic emotion. However, envy does not only exist in the romantic relationships in the play, as it is the omnipresent “green-eyed monster”, which has the ability to be present wherever there is a hierarchy. Iago’s jealousy that he feels towards Othello is similar to that between Satan and Jesus in the bible; Othello is presented as a masculine, noble figure and Iago is compared to “Janus”. Furthermore, Shakespeare’s setting of the play in Cyprus an exotic, isolated island reflects the warped heaven that the character’s live in, and the jealousy that Iago perpetuates is the downfall of such paradise.
Shakespeare’s didactic presentation of jealousy as a malignant emotion, portrays how it could be perceived as the single cause for the destruction of characters and relationships in the play. However, it only exists as a result of weak morality, betrayal and envy. Iago is the advocate for spreading the jealousy that plagues his consciousness, as he is the proof that such emotion only exists when it is injected and incubated. He immortalizes the hatred and jealousy he feels by projecting it onto other’s relationships, causing it to exist without reason, ruining otherwise seamless situations.