An Analysis Of The Themes Of Pride And Jealousy In Othello, A Play By William Shakespeare

Pride and Envy

Shakespeare’s play “Othello”, a tragedy, is based on multiple themes. The Othello oral report focused on dishonesty & miscommunication, guilt & regret, gender & pride, as a well as other less significant themes. Performance Session: The main focus of the Performance Session were gender differences and envy, along with dishonesty. My personal analysis would have included race.

Shakespeare’s use of miscommunication and dishonesty to set up tragic events is a key theme in his plays. There would be no play without them. Iago, who says “O wretched foolish/ That lovest thy honest a sin!” is a good example. /…To have an honest and direct nature is dangerous!” (3.3.372-376), he believes that honesty is a bad quality. Iago’s true character is emphasized by his nickname “honest Iago”, which contrasts to his real personality. Iago is called “honest, honest Iago”, which contrasts with his true personality and emphasizes the dishonesty of Iago to the audience. The play is full of miscommunications, or content that has been misinterpreted or only partially true. This contributes to the events unfolding. Emilia asks Iago “What are you going to do with that handkerchief, you’ve been so earnest/To have me fix it?” (3.3.311-312), and Iago refuses an answer. Iago is dishonest and uses miscommunication to his benefit. Iago tries to manipulate Othello by lying to him.

Iago manipulates and lies to Othello, leading him to regret and death. Iago starts the plot with his jealousy towards Cassio. As seen in “I Know My Price, I Am Worth No Less …/, And What Was He? Iago is jealous of Othello because “it’s said abroad that ‘twixt [Iago] sheets/… I don’t know if ‘t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in this kind,/ Will do as if it were certain” (1.3.365-368) and Iago suspects the lust Moor/ Has leaped into his seat (2.1.278-279). Iago has also become jealous of Othello. “It is said that the Moor has jumped into [his] chair” (1.3.365-368), and “Iago suspect[s] that the lust moor/ Has leaped in [his] seat”. Iago doesn’t know whether the rumor about Othello is true or not, but he still wants to ruin Othello, just in case. Iago decides that Othello will be jealous of him by believing that Desdemona and Cassio are sleeping together. Othello is driven to murder Desdemona by his jealousy. When he realizes what he’s done, Othello stands in front the dead Desdemona to express his regret. My girls, it’s cold. / Just like your chastity. O slave, you cursed one! Whip Me, Ye Devils” (5.2.268-271). Othello’s realization of his own jealousy is the tragical moment in the entire play.

Men’s pride is very materialistic and heroic. We can see this from quotes such as “That handkerchief which I so loved and gave thee” (5.2.48), where Othello’s jealousy over a handkerchief, an object more materialistic, causes him to be hurt. Gender, however, comes up separately, in a subtle way. Men’s Pride is Materialistic and Heroic. Quotes like “That Handkerchief Which I So Loved and Gave Thee” (5.2.48) show Othello’s hurt and jealousy at a materialistic object, whereas “I am hereto your daughter”. Desdemona took pride instead in her love of honor, just as did most women during that time. The loss in pride is the cause of jealousy throughout the entire play. Iago loses the promotion. Iago loses faith in Othello. Women were expected at that time to marry the man chosen by their fathers and to be faithful to their husbands. Emilia was faithful to Iago, even though he refused to explain why he wanted a handkerchief. Desdemona, however, pushes the boundaries of what a woman can do in society when she marries Othello and defies her father. Brabanzio implies in the first line of her speech that fathers should not rely on their daughters’ judgments. Iago says, “If a woman is wise and fair, if she has fairness and wit/ One’s for you, the other takes it.” (2.1.127-128) This insult shows the disrespectful behavior men have towards women. Emilia, who said “It’s not a month or two that makes us a man”, also shows men to be superior. We are only food and they are just stomachs. To eat, hungry and full. / Then they belch. Othello, who is black, a Moor is the reason for his intense jealousy, as well as why he takes pride in himself. Iago says “An older black ram/ Is tipping your white ewe.” (1.1.92) Othello says “Her face is as black and begrimed/ As Dian’s” (3.3.396-398).

Shakespeare incorporated a lot of themes in his “Othello,” which has a tragic ending due to jealousy and dishonesty. It also led to multiple deaths. The play demonstrates how women should behave, and the importance of military heroism. It also reveals how lying can affect someone’s future, something that was true in its time, and is still true today.


  • davidwong

    David Wong is a 29-year-old educator and blogger who focuses on helping students learn in creative and interesting ways. He has a background in teaching and has been blogging since 2006. David's work has been featured on a variety of websites, including Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and The Huffington Post.