“Jealousy is a terrible disease. Get well soon.”
I finished reading Othello a few days ago and I found that this play serves as an extremely powerful warning, especially for myself. I often find myself held captive by jealousy, and I hate how it feels. Whether I’m jealous of someone’s outfit or body or how much time they spend with someone else, whether I’m jealous over something small, I feel like I don’t have any control over myself. Jealousy has the potential to be a fatal sickness, seizing all aspects of one’s life unless one finds the strength to defeat it. Jealousy infects the soul, and if cultivated, festers until it completely poisons the heart and tramples any intention of clear thinking or good will.
This loss of control due to jealousy is one of the central conflicts in Othello. One of the main characters, Othello is led by the play’s villainous mastermind, Iago, to believe that his wife has been cheating on him. As a result of Iago’s plan, several people are killed. In the end, Othello ultimately kills his wife. The question I will address in this post is on who the blame should be cast upon for this play’s tragedy—Iago or Othello? My answer? Othello.
It is easy to think that the tragedy lies squarely on Iago’s shoulders because he manipulated Othello and caused him to get jealous. Yes, Iago played on Othello’s feelings and insecurities and yes, Iago orchestrated many of the events that shaped the play’s tragedy, but Othello had will and the ability to exercise that will. Regardless of how much someone threatens you, it is always your choice to give in or not. Regardless of how many lies someone feeds you, you always have a choice to question those lies and seek the truth for yourself. Othello had this choice, but instead, he allowed himself to be exploited by Iago.
We can see the extent of Othello’s suggestibility in Act 3, when Iago plants seeds of doubt in his heart against Desdemona’s loyalty. Othello goes from a trusting husband to a doubting Thomas in a matter of minutes. One could attribute this to Iago’s skillfulness in rhetoric. However, I attribute it to Othello’s weak will and insecurities. When Desdemona requested to be heard, Othello ignored her pleas and denied her a chance to explain her side of the story. His jealousy took total control and resulted in making him extremely blind and close-minded.For someone who seemed so completely in love with his wife, Othello’s willingness to turn on his spouse that quickly shows not only that he wasn’t as in love with her as he thought, but that he was greatly susceptible to Iago’s ploys. Othello did not fight to exercise his will and consequently, he did not fight to seek the truth.
If Othello actually tried to find out what was going on, the scene in which he killed Desdemona wouldn’t have occurred, and in turn, Emilia wouldn’t have been in the same position (physically and situation-wise) to accuse Iago and get killed. As for Roderigo’s death, we can credit Iago with that (but that’s only 1/4 of the tragedy and Othello can be credited w/ 3/4 🙂 ) . Ultimately, he ended up murdering his wife and killing himself because he allowed jealousy to overrun his life.
“O beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” -Iago (lol, the irony 🙂 )