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Help Analyzing Othello Quotes on Jealousy

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 1/20/2012

The dangers of jealousy is a strong theme that runs throughout the play 'Othello'. The following quotes serve as examples of the theme. Great fodder for class discussion or essay ideas!

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    Dangers of Jealousy

    Quote: "I follow him to serve my turn upon him: / We cannot all be masters, nor all masters / cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark / Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave / That doting on his own obsequious bondage, / Wears out his time, much like his master's ass..." (Act I, Scene 1).

    Analysis: Iago explains his strategy to Roderigo and justifies his treachery. He resents those above him, following them simply to harm them. He defends his actions by stating in the end, his "masters" will discard him if he fails to get the upper hand now. This resentment of those above him may explain his villainy toward Othello, the respected military leader of Venice; Cassio, a lieutenant promoted over Iago; and Roderigo, a rich, but stupid nobleman. Iago uses a simile comparing servants to donkeys to emphasize the mistreatment of those without power.

    Quote: "I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter / and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs." (Act I, Scene 1).

    Analysis: Iago stirs up trouble between Brabantio and Othello. His crude euphemistic metaphor highlights Iago's crassness and his desire to harm those above him in society.

    Quote: "She gave me for my pains a world of sighs: / She swore,--in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange; / 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful: / She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wished / That heaven made her such a man" (Act I, Scene 3).

    Analysis: Othello recounts to the court his wooing of Desdemona. The repetition of 'twas combined with Desdemona's "world of sighs" establishes a dreamlike mood. It's as though Othello cannot believe he has successfully wooed the much sought after nobleman's daughter. The paradoxical use of "wondrous pitiful" and she "wished not yet wished" also contributes to the dreamlike mood established by the Moor.

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    More Important Othello Quotes

    Othello's Adventures 

    There are so many Othello quotes to choose from. Here are some that struck my fancy. Feel free to share your favorite quotes from Othello in the comments section below.

    Quote: "Men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would they might seem none!" (Act III, Scene 3)

    Analysis: Iago warns Othello about men who are not what they appear. Othello believes Iago speaks of Michael Cassio of not being what he seems. In reality, he speaks of himself. This is irony (verbal and dramatic).

    Quote: "This honest creature doubtless / Sees and knows more, much more than he unfolds." (Act III, Scene 3).

    Analysis: Yet another example of irony, this time dramatic. Iago does know much more than he unfolds. Othello thinks he knows more about Desdemona and Cassio's affair, but what he really knows is there is no affair. Iago knows human nature and how to manipulate it. Othello referring to Iago as an "honest creature" is also ironic.

    Quote: "Tis not a year or two shows us a man: / They are all but stomachs and we all but food: / They eat us hungerly, and when they are full, / They belch us."

    Analysis: Emilia uses an extended metaphor to voice her disgust toward men, comparing men to stomachs and women to belched food. Why then does Emilia steal Desdemona's handkerchief--without which, Iago's plans fail--and give it to her husband? Is it possible that Iago's suspicions that his wife has been with the Moor in the past are true? Does Emilia fancy Othello and want his wife out of the picture?

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    Othello Quotes on Jealousy

    Use these jealousy quotes to deceive your lover when you're having an affair.

    Quote: "O, beware, my lord of jealousy; / It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on." (Act III, Scene 3).

    Analysis: The ironic thing about Iago's advice to Othello is its soundness. He's one of Shakespeare's many characters who gives sound advice, yet goes against it. Not only does Iago goad Othello to jealousy, he himself is jealous and resentful of the success of others. Calling jealousy a "green-eyed monster" is a metaphor full of imagery. Picture a green-eyed monster gnawing your spleen as it calls you names. That's jealousy.

    Quote: "O curse of marriage, / That we can call these delicate creatures ours, / And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad, / And live upon the vapors of a dungeon, / Than keep a corner of the thing I love / For others' uses." (Act III, Scene 4).

    Analysis: Othello soliloquizes the curse of marriage when one marries an unfaithful woman. He then utters the hyperbolic "I had rather be a toad and live upon the vapors of a dungeon" than share my wife's body with someone else to emphasize his bitterness. It's apparent that Othello has already made up his mind that his wife is an adulteress and no evidence to the contrary can convince him otherwise. We see that the "green-ey'd monster" mocks.

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    Othello 1896 

    Shakespeare's insights on human nature dazzle. That, however, is no reason to be jealous.

    Quote: "Trifles light as air / Are to the jealous confirmations strong / As proofs of holy writ. (Act III, Scene 4).

    Analysis: Iago understands human nature. He understands the effects of jealousy. He knows it won't take much to fool Othello. Shakespeare uses two similes in this passage: (1) Iago compares trifles to air; (2) he compares trifles to holy writ for the jealous lover.

    Quote: "But jealous souls will not be answered so; / They are not ever jealous for the cause, / But jealous for they are jealous: 'tis a monster / Begot upon itself, born on itself.

    Analysis: Emilia also compares jealousy to a monster, claiming that jealousy is spawned by itself. According to Emilia, events do not cause jealousy; jealousy causes events and further jealousy.

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    Now all your friends will be jealous of your knowledge of Othello, by William Shakespeare.

    Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Othello Study Guide

Don't be tricked into killing your loved ones on the next test. Read this Othello study guide instead.
  1. Scene Summaries of William Shakespeare's Othello
  2. Help Analyzing Othello Quotes on Jealousy