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Otherness and the Nature of Jealousy in Othello

There is a reason it is called a monster. Jealousy transforms love into a rage that can have deadly consequences. The monster that Othello becomes destroys the love that he held for Desdemona and eventually destroyed the vessel of that love, Desdemona herself. From the perspective of a clinical discussion of the emotion of jealousy, the nature of jealousy is a complex system of emotional programs that have evolved as responses in reference to threats to procreative responsibilities (Lewis 122). This response is intended to protect the line of male succession, thus it is seen more often and more dangerously in men. In addition, it has only been in recent history that women have had a right to demand fidelity in their mates. While men have guarded fidelity in women with lethal prejudice, women have only been allowed to express jealousy in regard to their mates through cultural norms in the last few centuries of human history. In discussing the nature of the jealousy expressed by Othello, it is necessary to understand the cultural position on the relationships between men and women during the period of the play and the period in which it was written. According to Lewis, cues of a situation trigger an emotion mode, but embedded in that emotion mode is a way of seeing the world and feeling about the world related to the ancestral cluster of associated elements (122). The way in which an emotion is perceived and is reacted to is dependent upon both the visual cues that suggest the appropriateness of that emotion and the historical cultural values that define that emotion. One might believe that an emotion is experienced in the same way no matter the cultural location, but this is not true. The emotion develops upon the beliefs on how a culture has framed its expression and appropriateness. As an example, love is an emotion that seems relatively similar in all cultures.

Otherness and the Nature of Jealousy in Othello