Othello: Jealousy Sexual in Nature
William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello manifests a lot of activity motivated by a variety of passions, some good and others not so. Let’s analyze what many critics consider to be the dominant passion on the part of the protagonist’s most significant actions.
A. C. Bradley, in his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, describes the dominant motivating passion in Othello:
In the second place, there is no subject more exciting than sexual jealousy rising to the pitch of passion; and there can hardly be any spectacle at once so engrossing and so painful as that of a great nature suffering the torment of this passion, and driven by it to a crime which is also a hideous blunder.
. . . But jealousy, and especially sexual jealousy, brings with it a sense of shame and humiliation. For this reason it is generally hidden; if we perceive it we ourselves are ashamed and turn our eyes away; and when it is not hidden it commonly stirs contempt as well as pity. Nor is this all.
Such jealousy as Othello’s converts human nature into chaos, and liberates the beast in man; and it does this in relation to one of the most intense and also the most ideal of human feelings. (169)
H. S. Wilson in his book of literary criticism, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, discusses the place of jealousy in the play:
Under the deft ministrations of Iago, we witness a remarkable transformation in him. The man of judgment, the commander “whom passion could not shake,” becomes a credulous fool, transported with jealous fury, so infatuated that while he demands evidence of Desdemona’s guilt he never sees anything save through Iago’s suggestion, so beguiled that he. .
gic 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.
Wilson, H. S. On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1957.