The Shakespearean tragedy Othello shows the devastating effects of Jealousy on the key character, Iago. In the sociohistorical context of Elizabethan England, Iago is the anti hero who returns the social chaos caused by Othello to normal. In Act I Scene III Iago crafts and justifies an ambitious plan to deceive everyone within his inner circle. This plan will take away the privileges that Othello is given as an African man within renaissance Venice. This deception can be explored through the ideas of (racism, the patriarchy and jealousy). Through this the value and reception of this play within Contemporary society can be shown.
The patriarchal Venetian society presented in Othello, molded on the ideology of Elizabethan England, seems to consider women as submissive, possessions that can be treated like whores. The role of women during this time is advantageous to Iago’s plan, Othello speaks to his ensign Iago describing him ironically as a man of “honesty and trust”, Desdemona is treated as a possession to be guarded and transported, and this trust allows Iago to plant the seeds of jealousy within Othello. Iago’s desire for revenge is dictated by his view of women as possession. Iago explores this through the symbology of “that twixt my sheets, He’s done my office”, this suggests Othello has slept with Iago’s wife Emilia therefore insulting Iago’s male chauvinism. This idea is then compounded by the metaphor of “the lusty Moor, hath leaped into my seat” The combination of “Seat” and “Office” shows that Emilia is Objectified and deprived of her humanity. Both Othello and Iago have a mutual distrust of women this is a gift for Iago as he is able to trick Othello into believing Desdemona is being promiscuous by presenting the symbolic “Ocular proof” this then seals the fate of the play. A resisted reading of Othello through the eyes of a feminist, allows one to realise the inherent sexism and misogyny within this play. This representation of women is simply giving the Audience a glimpse of Elizabethan society at this time, future generations will use this play question the integrity of the Misanthropes.
Othello’s fatal flaw of Jealousy is advantageous to Iago’s plan to deceive all those he needs to. Iago’s own Jealousy seals Othello’s fate, this is explored through “I hate the Moor” the very direct and powerful verb hate openly states Iago’s intention to destroy Othello. Iago then uses this hatred to effectively probe Othello’s weaknesses. This is idea is used in “For she had eyes, and chose me” this has connotation eluding to a need for proof, this distrust that Iago’s is able to present through the symbology of the “handkerchief” this item is a part of the Ocular proof demanded, Othello’s position of hiding behind bars in a corner gives Othello the final piece of the proof the irony in this imagery is that Othello is being trapped by jealousy set by Iago. This Jealousy is completely derived from a societal misogyny that allows Othello to confide in Iago thus allowing deceit to occur. This general mistrust of women revealed in Othello is partially reflected in Contemporary society, having a view of society from 16th century allows our society to evaluate whether equality between the sexes is actually occurring.
Racism is a fundamental component that contributes to Othello’s anxiety that Desdemona does not love him due to his race. The racist tone of “The moor” belittles Othello, this anxiety allows Iago to plant the seeds of jealousy. Roderigo’s own prejudice shown by the racist slur “thick lips” allows Iago to plant false promises within Roderigo to give himself confidence in Iago’s plan, this allows it to continue effectively. This is then plan to trick Othello due to racial prejudice is then explored further through “And will as tenderly be led by th’ nose As asses are.” This comparison denigrates Othello further by revealing Othello’s sensitivity of his own race. This is then shown to be true when Iago implicates his “friend” Cassio as a reckless drunk. This denouncement allows Cassio to be isolated and to be used as a pawn in Iago’s plan. This constant deceit is the value of this play. Iago is placing the Elizabethan societal standards upon Othello, it propels an overall message that being different is deadly, when the smallest minority is the individual.
The play Othello effectively explores the denigration of women within Elizabethan with the aid of jealousy and racism this effectively give Iago a set of societal standard which can be used to deceive people based on their own sensitivity on these issues during this time. It ultimately allows Jealousy to be planted within Othello and for the play to come to its eventual end. Iago’s own motivations are based on a societal standard which was broken. The response is of male chauvinistic pride to take a pointless attempt of revenge that ultimately leads to a tragedy for both parties involved.