Shakespeare's Othello: Is Jealousy the Cause?

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The hero in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello is guided to murder by his passions. Which passions? Jealousy? Sexual jealousy? In this paper let us look into these questions. In the volume Shakespeare and Tragedy John Bayley denies that jealousy is a major causative factor in the play: The play eludes with ease any attempt to pin it down to a solution: why it happened, what caused it, what weakness in Othello was involved? Even jealousy as such is not the reason. Jealousy is a long-term affair, with its own rules and customs, its own subterranean animosities and grudges. (204) Contrasting with this critical opinion is that of another esteemed critic. Lily B. Campbell in Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes definitively categorizes Othello as a “study in jealousy”: Othello has suffered less in its modern interpretation than any other of Shakespeare’s tragedies, it would seem. So insistently did Shakespeare keep this tragedy unified about the theme of jealousy and the central victims of the passion, so obviously did he mould his plot about the black Moor and the cunning Iago and the victims of their jealousy that no interpreter has been able to ignore the obvious intention of the author. Yet if we study the contemporary interpretations of the passion here portrayed, we find that Shakespeare was following in detail a broader and more significant analysis of the passion than has in modern days been understood. The play is, however, clearly a study in jealousy and in jealousy as it affects those of different races. (148) Can we narrow down the concept of jealousy in this play to a specific type? Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” sees this play as a study in sexual jealousy: Othello is not a study in prid... ... middle of paper ... ...vington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980. Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1970. Ferguson, Francis. “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare: The Pattern in His Carpet. N.p.: n.p., 1970. Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955. Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

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