Explore the significance of jealousy in the first half of the play
Jealousy is introduced as a key theme within the first half of Othello, the ability for personal jealousy to consume and influence the actions of characters emphasises its power and importance within the play. It is epitomised within the definition as ‘the green eyed monster which doth mock’, this personification further demonstrates jealousy as a power. The theme is revolves around Iago as a master manipulator who uses jealousy and its correlation with vulnerability to influence characters around him.
Through his portrayal of Iago’s actions and the effect they have on other characters, Shakespeare draws attention to Iago’s personal jealousy and how he instigates jealousy within other characters. It could be said that Iago’s jealousy for Othello and Cassio motivates his deceitful actions towards them, particularly his jealousy and anger towards Othello promoting Cassio to his Lieutenant. Iago’s inherent racism is important when exploring his jealousy for Othello. Throughout the first scene he and Roderigo do not refer to Othello by name, only ‘he’, ‘the Moor’, ‘Barbary horse’ and ‘thick lips’. This aggressive language not only conveys Iago’s racism but also his strong hatred towards him. From this it can be gathered that Iago may be envious of Othello’s high societal position and general reputation, he does not consider a ‘Moor’ to be able to perform to a higher standard than he. Although this is not directly demonstrated, it can be assumed from his use of language and destructive actions, the clear intent of which is Othello’s reputation demise. It seems questionable that Iago’s actions would be motiveless, when there is such a strong hatred behind them, this anger particularly emphasised in the 2007 production at the Globe, directed by Wilson Milam. Within this, Iago is portrayed as rowdy and lewd, exaggerating his bitterness through his physical actions. This interpretation of Othello conveys Iago as less subtly manipulative than he seems within the text. For instance, in Act 1, Scene 1 Iago arrogantly shouts up to Brabantio claiming ‘an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe’, the juxtaposing, crude language of ‘black ram’ and ‘white ewe’ induces humiliation within Brabantio, which, when he finds out the true extent of Othello’s relationship with his daughter causes him to feel a deep hatred and jealousy towards him. This is the first way Iago begins to use jealousy to turn characters against Othello, leading to the eventual demise of his reputation.
It is suggested Iago is in love with Desdemona, furthering his envy for Othello. However, it is unclear if Iago is truly in love with Desdemona as he states it is ‘partly led to diet’ his revenge, suggesting that his obsession with destroying Othello has started to influence his emotions. This further probes the question whether Iago could be considered a jealous character, as his destructive actions have such clear intent...