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Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies. The play deals with issues of jealousy and possessiveness, gullibility, blind passion, and the dangers that might emerge from failing to see beyond the surface of appearances.
In contrast to other classics like King Lear and Hamlet, which deal with governmental problems and resound with universal truths, Othello is set in a very private world and it narrates the passions and personal lives of its protagonists, Othello and Desdemona.
Othello is a black man living in white Venice and serving the Venetian army. Characters like Iago express their jealousy, fear, or hatred of Othello by utilizing racist slurs. Othello mostly resists, ignores, or appears unconcerned by the bigotry displayed by others for much of the play. However, he slowly starts internalizing Iago’s and others’ belief that his Blackness makes him a barbarian.
Othello appears to be destroyed by jealousy. It’s the emotion Iago plays with to bring about Othello’s destruction. Lago believes he understands jealousy. It’s because he has practiced it in his relationship with Emilia so much so that Emilia believes jealousy is a part of men’s natural personalities.
Still, Lago’s jealousy is feeble and weak compared to the malignity he stirs within Othello. Iago had noted Othello’s predisposition for insecurity and overreaction, but even he did not expect Othello to go as far as he did. Othello’s mind is solely focused on Desdemona’s betrayal of Cassio and nothing else matters anymore. His mind is consumed by the perceived unfaithfulness of his partner.
Lago’s cunning strategy would not have worked if there had not been an underlying atmosphere of racial discrimination in Venetian society. Desdemona and Othello are well aware of the existence of racial undertones in their surroundings but pretend otherwise.
They behave as though they are free citizens of a civilized society who have every right to fall in love and live as per their will. But in reality, misogyny and racial prejudice were ingrained into the fabric of the Venetian society of that time. In the end, the toxicity of their society taints the hearts of its main characters. His self-doubt and insecurities make him question whether he is even worthy of Desdemona. It drives him to despise himself and kill Desdemona, the person he loved the most.
The central theme of jealousy is omnipresent in the entire play. It leads to the demise of the main characters. Roderigo’s jealousy makes him act recklessly and ultimately gets him murdered. Othello’s jealousy leads him to commit suicide. Lastly, Iago’s jealousy ends with him being tortured to death. The play warns the readers that jealousy can trigger unspeakable consequences. It blinds us from the truth and prevents us from thinking and behaving logically.
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