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Essay on Jealousy in Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and Winter’s Tale

Jealousy in Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and Winter’s Tale

The common thread of jealousy ties together the main plots in Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale. In each of these plays, the main conflict is centered around some form of jealousy. While jealousy is the mutual, most prominent cause for turmoil in these plays, its effects on the characters, and ultimately the plots, is different in each case. This difference has much to do with the way in which the concept of jealousy is woven into each play, and what it is intended to accomplish.

In Othello, the jealousy factor is deliberately introduced by Iago, with the precise intention of destroying those whom he feels have wronged him. Since it is intentionally used with malicious intent, it has catastrophic results. Iago himself is jealous of Cassio; he feels that he should have been appointed to Cassio’s position by Othello, and since he wasn’t he hates both Othello and Cassio. Iago channels the jealousy that Othello and Cassio have made him feel, and uses it against them in a hateful plan. Iago starts the process by planting the seeds of jealousy in Othello’s mind, telling him Desdemona has been unfaithful. He then proceeds to cultivate the growing jealousy by feeding it with more lies, and twisting innocent events into situations which would serve his needs (his telling Othello that Cassio and Desdemona met in secret, and convincing him that Desdemona vied for Cassio’s reinstatement as lieutenant because she loved him, for example). When the seeds had flourished, and Iago had succeeded in driving Othello mad with jealousy, Iago harvested his crop and convinced Othello to kill Desdemona. Othello’s killing Desdemona would both rid Iago of Desde…

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…l effects, and when the mistake of jealousy was revealed the problem was solved and every one could be happy.

In each of these plays, jealousy is used as a means of producing a conflict and creating trouble in the lives of the characters. The jealousy in each play, although it is introduced in a different way, always involves a man being jealous of his wife (or fiancée, in Hero’s case) being unfaithful with another man. Whether he misinterpret something he sees, or believe slanderous lies, the man’s jealousy builds until it forces him to do something to punish his unfaithful woman. At the end of each play, the man is made to realize his mistake, but sometimes the damage can not be undone. Jealousy is the main crisis in each type of play – tragedy, trage-comedy, and comedy – but its results lie strictly in the way it is introduced, and the intended severity.

Egocentricity and Sexual Relationships in The Chaneysville Incident

Egocentricity and Sexual Relationships in The Chaneysville Incident

The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s enormous and various extensions branch between the Philadelphia, the place of John’s most advanced assimilation, and the land of his origin, where in the darkness of Jack Crawley’s hut he is closest to his identity as a black man. Likewise, even as a young boy learning the ways of his race, he is the latest branch of a family chronology that continues to thin ethnically, a branch with an impossibly distant origin buried in darkness. But the movement that carries John away from The Hill, away from Jack’s hut and away from his own identity, is no more a source of his tormented ambivalence than the family history that fathered him. As the warring influences engage him, so too does the persistent love of Judith, a white woman with Southern ancestry upon whom the reconciliation of his identity conflict relies. However, John repels her for most of the novel and withdraws further into the isolation of his obsession.

John’s attitude toward Judith underscores his ambivalence, and at times seems baffling. However, the clashing egos of men and women and the awkwardness of their attempted union are not alien to literature or to life in general, and are repeated in a Narcissistic archetype. During his maddening quest for truth, John attacks the influences that push him further from himself, shedding the alterations of time to understand his identity, which extends far beyond his birth. His energies and emotions are literally self-directed, internalizing to a frigid Narcissism, which is inevitably doomed. The fragmentation of his identity is beyond assembling, and similar to the self-directed libido that proves fatal for both Narcissus and…

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…h as is rationally possible. Though the novel’s end is ambiguous and disturbing, it appears as though John has relinquished his Narcissism completely, indeed sacrificing a degree of his primordial identity, but gaining the more important aim of self-preservation, as he burns the no-longer-necessary clues. Although it is ambiguous, the hypothesis that John is about to kill himself is illogical. He doubtless undergoes a suicide of a different nature, killing his Narcissus and continuing to live with a rested conscious, directing his energy toward the future.

Work Cited and Consulted

Bradley, David. The Chaneysville Incident (1981) Rpt. New York: HR, Perennial Library Edition, 1990.

Pavlic, Edward. “Syndetic Redemption: Above-Underground Emergence in David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident.” African American Review (Summer 1996), 30(2):166-167, 169, 181n10.

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