The play Othello by William Shakespeare explores a range of themes, which you can read about in the following paragraphs.

Jealousy and envy

Jealousy is one of the most important themes in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. Most of the conflicts in the play are motivated by jealousy or by envy and the tragedy occurs because the characters involved are unable to control their jealous urges.

The reason behind Iago’s desire to destroy Othello and Cassio is because he is envious that Othello promoted Cassio and not him as lieutenant. Iago believes he is the one who deserves the position as he is experienced in battle and Cassio is not (1.1.23-35). His envy of Cassio is so great that he is ready to kill him. First, he sets up to disgrace Cassio by getting him drunk, then he makes it look as if Cassio is sleeping with Othello’s wife, Desdemona, and then he enlists Roderigo to kill Cassio and accompanies him to make sure the job is done.

Iago is also jealous of Othello because he seems to have quite a lot of good fortune. Othello is a well-respected general who is promoted to governor of Cyprus, meaning that the Duke of Venice and the other noblemen trust him enough to give him important missions. He manages to marry Desdemona and convinces the Duke of Venice to accept the marriage, even though he is a Moor. This is one of the reasons why Iago decides to destroy and discredit Othello. He does not seem to care that Desdemona will also suffer from his plans.

In Othello’s case, jealousy also leads to loss of control. Othello’s jealousy is engineered by Iago, who begins hinting that Cassio and Desdemona are sleeping together. Iago knows exactly how to encourage Othello’s jealousy, first by dropping only subtle hints and even warning Othello to beware of “the green-eyed monster” (3.1.196). Although Othello initially claims that he is not jealous, soon enough his paranoia that Desdemona is unfaithful to him will lead to a complete loss of control. This is exactly what Iago wants, as he confesses his plans to “put the Moor/ At least into a jealousy so strong/ That judgement cannot cure” (2.1.322-323).

Othello’s jealousy will cause him to behave erratically. He starts by finding it difficult to be around Desdemona, he strikes her in front of Lodovico, and then he insults her and tells her she is unfaithful. While we can say that Othello loses his mind because of his jealousy, some of his actions are actually planned and controlled. He plots Cassio’s death together with Iago, and he kills Desdemona on her bed following Iago’s su...

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