Identify some instances of jealousy in Othello.

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jealousy is a very prominent theme in Othello, driving the actions of some of its main characters. One instance of jealousy occurs very early in the play. Iago, who deems himself a very able officer, has been passed over for a promotion by Othello, who has chosen Michael Cassio to serve as his lieutenant. The whole affair, Iago says, has been unfair from the start, as Iago says:

'Tis the curse of service,
Preferment goes by letter and affection, 
And not by old gradation, where each second 
Stood heir to the first. Now, sir, be judge yourself 
Whether I in any just term am affined
To love the Moor.

This incident, it seems, is what motivates Iago to launch his deadly scheme against the Moor. Fittingly, Iago's plan plays on Othello's jealousy, which he sparks by contriving to make Othello believe that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful to him. So the other obvious example of jealousy comes at the end of the play, when Iago's plan is consummated with Othello's murder of his innocent wife, who dies (rightly) asserting her innocence. Othello, believing that his wife has betrayed him, is unmoved:

By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in ‘s hand. 
O perjured woman! Thou dost stone my heart, 
And makest me call what I intend to do 
A murder, which I thought a sacrifice:
I saw the handkerchief.

Iago's jealousy sets the plot in motion, and the genius of the scheme is the skill with which he plays on the jealousies of Othello.

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Iago's jealousy over being passed over for his promotion, and Othello's jealousy over his wife's supposed infidelity are two very important examples of jealousy in Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Othello. Two other examples can be observed in the minor characters of Roderigo and Bianca.

Roderigo loves Desdemona, who is of course married to Othello. Roderigo's jealousy of Othello is soothed temporarily by Iago, who uses this knowledge of Roderigo's feelings for Desdemona to manipulate Roderigo. Iago involves Roderigo in his plot to take down Othello, and Roderigo's loyalty to Iago and the plan is assured by his jealousy of Othello. If the plan succeeds, Roderigo will get Desdemona, Iago promises.

Bianca, who is romantically involved with Cassio, is jealous of the owner of the handkerchief, whom she believes is her competition for Cassio's affections. Bianca has no idea that Iago has schemed to obtain the handkerchief, a gift to Desdemona from Othello, which has been planted on Cassio. Iago uses the handkerchief to frame Cassio as Desdemona's lover. Bianca finds the handkerchief and gets jealous, thinking it belongs to Cassio's "other woman."