Jealousy In Othello

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Jealousy is described as feelings of resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages. It plays a very large role in Shakespeare’s “Othello”. Jealousy is the fire that motivates Iago and clouds Othello’s judgment, leading to the downfall of both men. Iago is extremely jealous of Cassio because of his position in the army.

Iago, a Venetian soldier of so good reputation that he is known to everyone as “honest Iago”, feels bitterly and deeply that he has been done a gratuitous injustice, His past life has been exemplary; his private actions and public deeds have been above reproach; his superior, the great Moorish general Othello, has trusted him, confided in him, relied on him.

Othello has had proof of his soldiership at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds Christian and heathen.

Three great ones of Venice have used their personal influence on Iago’s behalf. The lieutenancy has gone, nevertheless, to Michael Cassio, a Florentine and a mere theoretical soldier who has never set a squadron in the field. ” (McCloskey 25) Iago was equal to Othello in the military until Othello was promoted. Othello then made Cassio his lieutenant which enraged Iago. He set out to destroy Cassio and succeeded as he was stripped of his lieutenancy.

Iago was in a jealous frenzy and becoming lieutenant was not enough for him.

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Iago wants justice and this motivates him to sabotage Othello’s career as well. “Intellectual, craftly, subtle, and efficient as he is, Iago cannot, however, control his jealous suspicion. (McCloskey 222) Iago is clever and quick-witted but he is completely consumed with envy. He uses all of his intelligence to try and bring down Othello. “And nothing can or shall content my soul till I am even’d with him, wife for wife, Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so strong that judgment cannot cure. ” (Shakespeare;Othello. Act II:Scene 1:lines 307-311)

Why Is Iago Jealous Of Cassio

Iago believes that justice would be if Othello experienced the same jealousy that Iago had. Iago’s plan works and Othello is blinded by jealousy. This causes him to change his military opinion about Iago. For good and sufficient reasons, apparently, Othello has decided that Iago does not qualify for the vacant military post. Later, however, at the peak of his jealous rage, Othello belies his own previous military judgment against Iago. ” (Kliger 222) In the beginning of the play, Othello is in his prime and he chooses Cassio as his lieutenant with good reasoning behind it. Iago continuously manipulates Othello and by the end of the play they were scheming to kill Cassio.

Othello then ordered Iago to kill Cassio and gave him a reward. Now art thou my lieutenant” (Act III:Scene 3:line 478) Othello didn’t use his good judgment to make this decision. He wanted Cassio dead and so he compromised his beliefs to make sure that happened. At first when Iago starts putting ideas of an affair between Desdemona and Cassio, into Othello’s head, he dismisses them saying “I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; And on the proof, there is no more but this: Away at once with love or jealousy. ” (Act III:Scene 3: Lines 221-223) Othello doesn’t want to hear anything else about an affair unless Iago has proof.

As Iago continued hinting that Desdemona was unfaithful, Othello started to get jealous. By the end of the conversation he was saying “O curse of marriage, that we can call these delicate creatures ours and not their appetites! ” (Act III :Scene 3: Lines 309-311) Over the course of a conversation Othello goes against his previous beliefs about his own wife and becomes quick to believe Iago, as his judgment was hindered. Othello begins to make assumptions as he is caught up with jealousy. Iago tells him to eavesdrop and so when he hears Cassio speaking about Bianca, he thinks Cassio is speaking of Desdemona.

Othello isn’t thinking clearly and disregards obvious comments like “I marry her? What, a customer? Prithee bear some charity to my wit! Do not think it so unwholesome. Ha, ha, ha! ” (Act IV:Scene 1: Lines 309-311) From this comment Othello chooses to believe that Cassio is taunting Desdemona and calling her a prostitute. Iago knows exactly what he is doing to Othello and he says “As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad, and his unbookish jealousy must construe poor Cassio’s smiles, gestures, and light behaviors quite in the wrong. (Act IV :Scene 1: Lines 117-120)

Othello is a very intelligent man but he develops selective hearing and only hears of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness. Jealousy led to the downfall of both Othello and Iago. Iago was extremely jealous of Othello and his life revolved around manipulation. He became lieutenant but then he wanted more and wound up arrested, after killing Emilia and Roderigo. Othello was jealous of Cassio because he believed that his wife was having an affair. “Yet if Othello and Iago are Shakespeare’s examples of “masculine” men in the play, then manhood is the ability to command and audience, to have power over others. (Pryse 476)

Othello and Iago are too masculine and powerful to admit their true feelings of jealousy so they scheme and this leads to their downfall. If Othello had talked to Desdemona and listened to her, he would’ve found out that she was innocent. This would’ve saved both of their lives. Instead he ignored her pleas of innocence and smothered her in their own bed. His judgment was too clouded by jealousy and he made irrational mistakes. Othello said, “Then must you speak of one who loved not wisely, but too well: Of one not easily jealous but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme”. Act VI:Scene 2: Lines 403-406)


  • Babcock, Weston. “Iago–an Extrordinary Honest Man. ” Shakespeare Quarterly 16 (1965): 297-301. JSTOR. 2 Mar. 2008.
  • Kliger, Samuel. “Othello: the Man of Judgment. ” Modern Philology 48 (1951): 221-224. JSTOR. 2 Mar. 2008.
  • McCloskey, John C. “The Motivation of Iago. ” College English 3 (1941): 25-30. JSTOR. 2 Mar. 2008.
  • Pryse, Marjorie. “Lust for Audience: an Interpretation of Othello. ” ELH 43 (1976): 461-478. JSTOR. 2 Mar. 2008.
  • Shakespeare, Whilliam. Othello. Ed. Barbara A Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1993.

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Jealousy In Othello
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