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How are intense feelings such as love and jealousy explored in Shakespeare's Othello?
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Middle School Teacher
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The original question needed to be edited down. I would suggest that intense feelings such as love and jealousy are explored through Othello's characterization. Shakespeare uses the protagonist of his drama to be the vessel through which the intensity of such emotions can be analyzed. It is through Othello that the animating force of such intense feelings can be understood and their potential for self- destruction can be grasped.
Othello starts the drama off as a man in control of such intense feelings. He is shown to view his own reality through a cerebral frame of reference. It is one where he enjoys the motivating power of such feelings. The intense experience of love is something that gives an animating spirit to Othello. Jealousy is warded off, kept away, so long as Othello retains control of his emotions. Othello's control in the drama's exposition is reflected in how he is able to fully maintain a sense of discipline over the intensity of emotions: "He that stirs next to carve for his own rage / Holds his soul light; he dies upon his motion." In this light, Othello is shown to be one who understands that the need to control emotions is key to being successful when such intense emotions are within the individual.
It is from this where one can see how intense feelings such as love and jealousy can be destructive. Once Iago's "medicine" begins to work on Othello, it becomes clear that the intensity of such emotions can cut both ways. Intense emotions such as love and jealousy can be shown to be destructive once individuals lose control over them and become subsumed by them. Othello certainly fits this. Once his love for Desdemona meanders into the realm of control and insecurity, it becomes clear that he is no longer in control of such intensity. The intense emotions of love and jealousy are in control of him. Othello's acceptance of this is clear as he admits in the end that he was "one that lov'd not wisely but too well." Othello's statement can support the idea that intense feelings can be the source of greatness. Yet, they can also be the reservoir where so much personal destruction can be evident. It is in this reversal where the full range of intense emotions such as love and jealousy are shown to be both life- affirming and yet personally destructive when their growth is not focused and disciplined.
Posted by akannan on March 3, 2013 at 12:57 PM (Answer #1)
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