What could be discussed in a research paper on the topic of jealousy in Othello by William Shakespeare?

A research paper on the topic of jealousy as represented in Shakespeare's Othello should explore the "green-eyed monster" that afflicts Othello towards his wife, Desdemona, and his lieutenant, Cassio, and which leads to Desdemona's death and Othello's tragic downfall. Other characters in Othello also suffer from jealousy, including Othello's ensign, Iago, whose jealousy drives his evil plots against Othello and Cassio, and Roderigo, a former suitor of Desdemona, whose jealousy towards Cassio leads to his own death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jealousy, the "green-eyed monster" (3.3.188), is a driving force that affects a range of characters in Shakespeare's Othello including Othello himself, as well as his ensign, Iago, and Roderigo, a former suitor of Othello's wife, Desdemona.

Iago leads Othello to believe that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with Cassio, Othello's lieutenant. Othello's jealousy and rage towards Desdemona and Cassio consumes him and ultimately destroys Desdemona and himself.

Early in the play, Iago admits "I hate the Moor" (1.3.179), and although the root of his hatred is never fully explained, Iago harbors his own jealousy toward Othello.

Iago suspects, for example, that his wife, Emilia, has been unfaithful to him with Othello.

IAGO. And it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets
He has done my office. I know not if't be true;
But I for mere suspicion in that kind
Will do as if for surety. (1.3.744–747)

Iago is also jealous of Othello and Desdemona's marriage, particularly compared to his own less-than-satisfactory marriage to Emilia. At no time during the play does Iago say he loves Emilia, and he displays no affection for her, except, perhaps, when he calls her a "good wench" for stealing the handkerchief from Desdemona that Othello gave to her.

Iago also seems to have some feelings toward Desdemona, which could account for some of his jealousy toward Othello.

IAGO. The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not,
Is of a constant, loving, noble nature;
And I dare think he'll prove to Desdemona
A most dear husband. Now, I do love her too,
Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure
I stand accountant for as great a sin,
But partly led to diet my revenge,
For that I do suspect the lusty Moor
Hath leap'd into my seat; the thought whereof
Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards,
And nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am even'd with him, wife for wife. (2.1.296–307)

Iago is also jealous of Cassio for being promoted to Othello's lieutenant over him. Iago believes that he has more experience and is much more qualified for the position than Cassio.

IAGO. And what was he?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster. (1.1.18–24)

This jealousy leads Iago to plot his evil schemes against both Othello and Cassio.

Iago also takes advantage of the jealousy that Roderigo has for Othello and Cassio with regards to Roderigo's own failed suit to win Desdemona as his wife. Iago convinces Roderigo that if Othello and Cassio are out of the way, then Roderigo could win Desdemona back to him.

Iago involves Roderigo in his plot to disparage Othello to Desdemona's father in act 1, scene 1, and his attempt to disgrace Othello in front of the Duke of Venice and the council of Senators in act 1, scene 3.

In act 4, scene 2, Iago also enlists Roderigo's assistance in his plot to kill Cassio. The plot fails and results in Roderigo first being wounded by Cassio and then killed by Iago in act 5, scene 1.

By some stroke of extreme good fortune, Cassio is the only major character involved in these jealousy-fueled plots and schemes who is left alive at the end of the play—except for Iago, who is wounded by Othello in the final scene and whose fate is likely dire but which has yet to be determined when the play ends.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team