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The Undesirable Effects Of Envy And Jealousy In Othello

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The jealous are troublesome to themselves and tormentous to others. They create a path of destruction detrimental to themselves and those closest to them. Envy has the power to overrule even the sanest of people. In William Shakespeares’ Othello, jealousy is a prime emotion felt by both Othello and Roderigo, leading them to be unquestionably obedient and suffer immensely. Ultimately, it is Othello who is affected the most by his own begrudging actions. The extreme envy felt by Othello and Roderigo causes them to become blindly follow orders and their internal thoughts. Othello’s jealousy blinds him into believing Iago’s words, as well as his internal thoughts. Similarly, Roderigo’s jealousy allows Iago to easily manipulate his actions. These envious actions of Roderigo and Othello leads to their suffering, especially for Othello. Roderigo’s apprehensive, violent acts leads him into great physical suffering. Likewise, Othello’s envy leads him to make life-altering decisions that will cause him both physical and emotional anguish. Throughout the text, Roderigo and Othello are blindly obedient, which is directly fuels from their jealousy.

The jealousy that Othello and Roderigo feel leads them to become blindly obedient to the words of others and their internal thoughts. Iago’s stories of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness fills Othello with jealousy and causes him to blindly believe Iago’s suggestions. In the early stages of the play, Iago and Othello are walking together when they come across Desdemona and Cassio conversing. Upon noticing Othello, Cassio steals “away so guilty-like” (Shakespeare 3.3.38), in the words of Iago. Othello, who thinks nothing of Cassio’s actions, becomes suspicious because of this comment by Iago. This is the beginning of Othello’s jealousy. Othello believes Iago without thinking for himself, simply because he is envious of Cassio’s interaction with his wife. He now has reason to believe his wife is unfaithful, which fuels his envy and leads him to blindly follow Iago’s words. Similarly, Othello’s jealousy leads him to unquestioningly follow the words in his head and murder his wife. When Othello receives word that Cassio may be dead, he takes this as a signal to kill his wife, which he believes is the only way to proceed with his wife’s unfaithfulness. In the final moments, before the murder is complete, Othello convinces himself that “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul.” (Shakespeare 5.2. 1). He believes the only way he can calm his soul and keep his reason is to murder Desdemona. Othello is so full of jealousy that he blindly kills his wife, without allowing himself catharsis before moving forward with his actions. In comparison to Othello, Roderigo also allows his envy to let others control his actions. In the beginning of the play, Roderigo seeks out Brabantio, the father of Desdemona, to tell him of Desdemona and Othello’s affairs. Roderigo and Iago are walking together when they pass Barbantio’s home. Iago tells Roderigo to “Call up her father.” (Shakespeare 1.1. 69), to which Roderigo complies calling “What, ho, Brabantio! Ho Signor Brabantio, ho!” (Shakespeare 1.1. 80). Under Iago’s instruction, Roderigo calls out to Brabantio’s, with the intent of telling Brabantio about his daughter’s secret affairs. Roderigo does this purely out of jealousy. He wants to be the one with Desdemona and believes that if he tells Brabantio, Desdemona will be forced to leave Othello. Roderigo knows Brabantio will be irate upon learning his daughter is having an affair with Othello and hopes Brabantio will force them to separate, allowing Roderigo a chance to create his own relationship with Desdemona. In addition to this, Roderigo gives Iago a large sum of his money, leaving him broke, out of pure jealousy over Desdemona. This takes place when Iago finds Roderigo, who is distraught that Brabantio is giving Desdemona and Othello his blessing. Iago tells Roderigo to “Traverse, go, provide thy money.” (Shakespeare 1.3. 364), and he will be able to get Desdemona for him. Roderigo is so full of envy of Othello’s relationship, that he immediately agrees to provide Iago with the money the very next day. Iago promises Roderigo that by giving him the money, Iago will be able to enact his plan to separate Othello and Desdemona, allowing Roderigo to have Desdemona. Roderigo believes Iago’s words without any of his own thoughts, simply because he is jealous. A conclusion can be drawn that both Othello and Roderigo allow jealousy to control them, which in turn creates negative actions, which will play into their inevitable suffering.

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In addition to their display of blind obedience, Othello and Roderigo’s jealousy also leads to incredible suffering, which is ultimately felt more greatly by Othello. Othello’s envy of Cassio’s supposed relationship with Desdemona leads him to suffer emotionally, in the form of his wife’s death. Othello, upon realizing the ploy set up by Iago, and the wrongful conviction of his wife deems he “Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away / Richer than all his tribe.” (Shakespeare 5.2. 363-364). Othello is only now feeling the full impact of losing his wife. He is telling Cassio and Lodovico how foolish he is to murder his wife, which shows how greatly he is suffering. When he finds Iago’s stories of his wife are false, and she is actually a loving, faithful wife, his emotional suffering is at its highest. The emotional pain he feels is similar to the physical pain he is about to feel when he takes the next step and takes his own life. A few moments after finding Iago’s stories are false, and he murders his innocent wife, Othello stabs himself. As Othello dies over Desdemona’s body, he says “I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, / Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (Shakespeare 5.2. 375-376). Othello’s jealousy brings him to his death. He allows his envious emotions to build-up to a boiling point and eventually takes the final step, which in turn is his greatest bought of suffering. Othello let envy control him to the point where he can no longer stand to live. The suffering Othello feels is far greater compared to the suffering felt by Roderigo. Roderigo, similar to Othello, involves himself in violent acts, simply because he is jealous. Roderigo’s jealousy leads him into a fight with Cassio, who has been spending time with Desdemona, where he is beaten badly. Roderigo, Cassio, Iago, and several other characters are celebrating and drinking when a fight breaks out in which Cassio hits Roderigo and injures him. Later on in the night, Roderigo converses with Iago, telling him his “money is almost spent” (Shakespeare 2.3. 344.) and “been tonight exceedingly well cudgeled.” (Shakespeare 2.3 345). Roderigo, who as discussed earlier, gave a large portion of his money to Iago out of pure envy, has now also been beaten by Cassio, which has caused him a great deal of physical suffering. Roderigo chose to fight Cassio out of his trust in Iago, which Iago creates from Roderigo’s envy. This action leads Roderigo to suffer physical pain. Similarly, Roderigo believes killing Cassio will cure his jealousy and give him Desdemona, which leads him to again, suffer physical pain. Iago and Roderigo are waiting together behind a wall when Cassio walks by. Iago tells Roderigo to attempt to stab Cassio, and Roderigo complies. When Roderigo attempts to stab Cassio he (Cassio) draws a sword and stabs Roderigo, who exclaims, “Oh, I am slain.” (Shakespeare 5.1. 27). Roderigo takes this action out of pure envy, hoping he will kill Cassio, thus removing any threats from Desdemona and allow himself to create a relationship with her. Roderigo’s attempt is not successful and leads to his stabbing and incredible physical suffering, and a few lines later, his death by a second stab from Iago. Roderigo’s suffering is far less than that of Othello’s as he does not go through as much emotional turmoil as Othello does. Roderigo does not experience the intense emotions that Othello feels and he does not commit any actual murder. For these reasons, Othello suffers far more than Roderigo. To bring everything to a close, Roderigo and Othello’s incredible envy leads to their immense suffering, which Othello feels in a greater way.

Jealousy is a prime emotion felt by both Othello and Roderigo, which leads them to be blindly obedient and suffer immensely, ultimately felt by Othello the most. This intense envy causes both characters to unquestioningly follow orders. Othello’s envy of Desdemona’s relationship with Cassio leads him to aimlessly follow Iago’s words and his internal thoughts. Similarly to Othello, Roderigo’s extreme jealousy allows Iago to control his actions with ease. Othello and Roderigo’s envious actions leads to their suffering, especially Othello’s. Othello’s anxious actions lead to his emotional and physical suffering. Similarly, Roderigo’s jealous acts of violence lead to his physical suffering. In the end, envy has the power to control even the strongest of people and lead them into actions that will cause them unbearable anguish.

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The Undesirable Effects Of Envy And Jealousy In Othello. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“The Undesirable Effects Of Envy And Jealousy In Othello.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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