Analysis of the Role of Jealousy, Love and Betrayal in Play “Othello”

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Analysisof the Role of Jealousy, Love and Betrayal in Play “Othello”

Analysisof the Role of Jealousy, Love and Betrayal in “Othello”

Consideredthe greatest dramatist of all times, William Shakespeare wrote anumber of plays for a span of around 20 years in his life, which haveremained popular for over 400 years. Born in 1564 in England,Shakespeare remained in his country but developed literal works thatcapture almost complete range of emotions and conflicts among humans.His plays often demonstrate the use metrical patterns that have suchaspects as blank verses and unrhymed phrases. But perhaps the mostimportant aspect of Shakespeare’ work is the ability to understandand capture human conflicts and emotions, especially in terms oflove, affection, jealousy and betrayal. As shown in his major workssuch as Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Mcbeth and Coriolanus, thesethemes often led to “tragedy” or “the problem” as the climaxof the story. Othello, like other “problem” plays, demonstratehow the main characters are led to make bad decisions by theiremotions, often leading to their tragedies. In this play, the maincharacter, Othello, is led to believe that his love Desdemona hasbetrayed him. In seeking revenge, he is driven by the emotions oflove, jealousy and betrayal. Eventually, he ends up in a tragedy.Consequently, itis arguable that the emotion of childish love is the cause ofOthello’s problem. Further, it is arguable that the childish loveexposes Othello to competitors’ ill intentions of planting a seedof jealousy in him. In addition, jealously is followed closely by thedesire to seek revenge, which ends of in a tragedy.

Love,the emotion that seems to be controlling Othello and his character,can be found throughout the story. In order to lead him, the villainheavily depended on a strong emotion, which exposes Othello to makesilly decisions and make him more vulnerable. Throughout the story,it is evident that Othello had great love for Desdemona asdemonstrated by his behaviour and expressions. For instance, he isunable to put forward any reasonable or evidence enough to show thereason or his love for Desdemona. When trying to convince the Duke ofhow he loves the girl, Othello only claims that Desdemona loves himjust because of the wounds he has received in his many battles. Itcan be argued that this love is not due to Eros because it transcendsthe physical looks of Desdemona (Moseley, 2017). But it is also dueto Philia because Othello has a great desire and acceptance ofDesdemona. He has great love for the woman, which can be explainedthrough Philia (Freud, 1947). But this is not a reason to show thatDesdemona loves him. In fact, it is also not enough reason for hislove for her. Naturally, he appears childish and inexperienced inlife matters. It is similar to an 11 year old boy in an elementaryschool who loves a girl of his age in his neighbourhood just becauseboth are of the same colour, but the girl does not know or love himback. In this case, any other boy who comes around, falls in lovewith the girl and lures her away is likely to become the villain ofthe first boy.

Similarly,Othello’s unjustified love for Desdemona is prone to be provenunreasonable and she is likely to be lured away from him. This comesto happen when Roderigo, who has a desperate love for Desdemona, paysIago to lure the girl away from Othello. From here onwards, Iagobecomes the target for Othello, whose feeling of betrayal makes himconsider revenge. Thus, I ago becomes the villain. Iago seems to be avery manipulative individual. To lure away the girl from Othello, hedecides to play dirty tactics against him by portraying him as athief and a wizard who has used witchcraft to steal Desdemona’sheart. He convinces Roderigo to confront the girl by tellingBrabantio, her father, and inform him that his daughter is in lovewith a wizard and a thief. It is evident that Iago is not interestedin Roderigo and his emotions towards the girl, but wants to have herfather humiliate or even fight Othello. Iago tells Roderigo “Callher father and poison his mind…” (Shakespeare, 2001). Evidently,Iago himself is jealous of Othello’s achievements and love for thegirl and as such, he wants to use Roderigo’s emotional feelingstowards Desdemona to fight Othello. Consequently, the emotion of lovehas already set path for further conflicts, indicating its roletowards the tragedy.

Iago’sjealousy for Othello’s immature love for Desdemona plants a seed ofmore jealousy and the urge to act in Othello’s mind. Also, Iago,the villain, takes the advantage of Othello’s silly love for thegirl to plant an idea of jealousy in the mind of Othello. Forinstance, he tells Othello, “O, my Lord, just don’t be ofjealousy because it is the green-eyed monster which mocks out themeat it is feeding on” (Shakespeare, 2001). But the phrase is onlymeant to ensure that Othello does not suspect Iago’s intentions.

Nevertheless,Othello adopts the jealousy of his own making, which is driven by hisemotional love for Desdemona. It appears that he ignores Iago’ssuggestion, most likely because Iago just wanted to make sure that heis not suspected of playing a role in luring the girl. It is ironicthat Othello, a man known for his heroic deeds in battle andpolitical leadership, finally fails victim of love and jealousy. Thefierce warrior’s sensible self is driven out of him by jealousy. Hefalls victim of mental instability when his emotions began to fail,followed by sleeping disorders and finally epilepsies. Evidently,Othello is insane because jealousy has taken over him mind. Itappears that he has what psychologists call destructivesyndrome-obsessive jealousy. Indeed, he starts making unusualimaginations, which are evidently untrue. Evidently, the audience cansee the toll that jealousy, which is caused by childish love andbetrayal, has on a hero. Moreover, the audience might predict thepossible consequences of this type of jealousy, which are revenge andtragedy.

Butrevenge cannot possibly come before the victim starts developingbreakdown of emotions and the suspecting betrayal by the one heloves. The initial consequence of jealousy, and the hero’s newstate of mind, is the false thought of being betrayed by his love.For instance, this can be seen in Othello’s thinking that Desdemonahas indeed betrayed him. When Iago tells Othello about thehandkerchief, he develops a perception that his wife has already beenbetraying him. But this is not the truth. Instead, it is the work ofthe seed of jealousy that has been planted in him by Iago. Given thathis emotions have been extreme the thought of betrayal was obviouslyon the way to affect Othello. Therefore, it is evident that jealousypushes him to see betrayal in his childish love for Desdemona. Fromhere onwards, Othello seems to be mad and his madness consumes hismind, but he still has no proof that his wife has betrayed him.

Afterthe thought of betrayal comes the need for revenge. Othello, drivenby madness caused by jealousy, starts to think about revenge. Ratherthan seeking to revenge for his condition, he seeks to revenge forhis love for Desdemona and Cassio, the man he has been thinking thathas been in love with her. For instance, the phrase “I will let herrot and perish and she should be banned tonight… she will not live”(Shakespeare, 2001). He further condemns Cassio to death saying,“…within the next three days, I do not want to hear of Cassiobeing alive” (Shakespeare, 2001). Consequently, it is evident thathe has already considered revenging as a solution to his problem,which is likely to lead t the next step- his downfall.

However,before the tragedy strikes, Othello’s childish love for Desdemonaresurfaces just before she is being taken for murder- he kisses herfor the last time. The situation causes further damage to hisemotions, heart and the state of mind. Here, the audience can seethat there is a mixture of love, the feeling of betrayal and the direneed for revenge. Evidently, Othello is in a dilemma. On one side, hestill loves Desdemona. On the other side, he has a desire to kill heras a way of revenge. With Iago on his side, he has no otherwise butto murder his love, which, rather than showing the hero in him,justifies his state of insanity brought by jealousy.

Overall,it is clear that Othello’s insanity and eventual downfall is aresult of three factors- childish emotional love, jealousy and thedesire for revenge. As it can be seen, one factor leads to the other,and at one point, they cause a dilemma. Unfortunately, jealousy isnot just in Othello, but it begins with Roderigo, who feels jealousyof Othello’s love for the woman. Also, Iago, the villain, is drivenby the same vice of jealousy to plant the same seed in Othello. Thus,Othello becomes the victim and jealousy, which drives him to madnessand the feeling of being betrayed. From betrayal comes the urge toseek revenge, which eventually causes the downfall of the hero andthus, the tragedy.


Freud,Sigmund. (1947). Contributionsto psychology of love. Freud on war, sex and neurosis.New York: Arts and Sciences press.

Moseley,A. (2017). Thephilosophy of love.Retrieved from

Shakespeare,W. (2001). Othello.Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing.7th ed.Boston, MA: Pearson.