Shakespeare's Othello: Is Jealousy the Cause? Essays

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The hero in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello is guided to murder by his passions. Which passions? Jealousy? Sexual jealousy? In this paper let us look into these questions. In the volume Shakespeare and Tragedy John Bayley denies that jealousy is a major causative factor in the play: The play eludes with ease any attempt to pin it down to a solution: why it happened, what caused it, what weakness in Othello was involved? Even jealousy as such is not the reason. Jealousy is a long-term affair, with its own rules and customs, its own subterranean animosities and grudges. (204) Contrasting with this critical opinion is that of another esteemed critic. Lily B. Campbell in Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes definitively categorizes…show more content…
The solution which Othello cannot accept is Iago’s: ‘Put up with it.’ This is as impossible as that Hamlet should, like Claudius, behave as if the past were done with and only the present mattered. . . . (144) Of course, jealousy of a different type also torments the antagonist, the ancient, to the point that he ruins those around him and himself. Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” describes how there is no cure for the jealous passion that rules Iago’s life: On the contrary, in the “world” of his philosophy and his imagination, where his spirit lives, there is no cure for passion. He is, behind his mask, as restless as a cage of those cruel and lustful monkeys that he mentions so often. It has been pointed out that he has no intelligible plan for destroying Othello, and he never asks himself what good it will do him to ruin so many people. It is enough for him that he “hates” the Moor. . . .(133) Act 1 Scene 1 opens with an expression of jealousy: Roderigo is upbraiding Iago because of the elopement of the object of his affections –Desdemona -- with the Moor: “Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.” Iago responds with an expression of jealousy, saying that he does indeed hate the general because he “Nonsuits my mediators; for, ‘Certes,’ says he, / ‘I have already chose my officer.’” With both Roderigo and the ancient spurred on by jealousy, they storm the home of the
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