- A worthwhile text encourages us to think about familiar things in new ways.
Hate and love exist on the same scale, just at opposite ends, for this reason, they cannot both be present in the same place. ‘Othello,’ written by William Shakespeare during the 1600s, captures this idea perfectly. The character of Othello in particular shows how quickly love can turn to hate and that you cannot both love and hate someone at the same time. Othello is filled with the familiar themes of love and hate but the way these themes are expressed is unique to the text. Shakespeare encourages the reader to think about these familiar themes in a new way, thus opening our eyes to a new understanding of love, hate and everything in between.
Shakespeare displays how hate spells from love through the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. Othello’s overwhelming love for Desdemona is quickly consumed by hate as he lets his jealousy take over. This is shown through the contrast between the language used by Othello to describe Desdemona at the beginning of the text compared to the end. Initially, positive connotations are used to describe Desdemona, one such example is when he refers to her as “my fair warrior,” the use of the adjective ‘fair’ expresses Othello’s love for Desdemona. He sees her as honest and faithful, a far cry from the end of the text where he sees her only as unfaithful and treacherous. At the end of the text, Othello’s opinion of Desdemona has changed completely. In a later conversation with her, Othello says, “Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.” This stark change in Othello’s view of Desdemona highlights just how quickly love can turn to hate. Othello no longer has any love for Desdemona, he sees her only as a disobedient, unloyal wretch who has betrayed him. Whilst this is not true, Othello has become so corrupted by jealousy that he can no longer think clearly. All the love he once had for Desdemona has dissipated, he is consumed only by hate. Shakespeare’s use of this highlights how love and hate are found on the same spectrum. At one end is the overwhelming feeling of love whilst at the other there is only hatred. The more you love a person, the greater the feeling of hate for them will be once something goes wrong. Love and hate are very common themes, but the way they are shown in Othello by Shakespeare is very different to how they are normally portrayed. Not many people would believe them to be found on the same spectrum but Shakespeare shows that they are. This provides an insightful view of the world and explains a lot about human nature and why it is those who you used to love the most, that you seem to have the deepest feelings of hate for if things end badly.
Love of one thing can quickly turn to hatred of another if your love is tarnished by another’s actions. The connection between love and hate is shown through many relationships in the text, not just by Othello. Another example of hate resulting from love is shown through Iago and his love for his wife Emilia. Early in the text, the reader is introduced to Iago’s reasoning for despising Othello so much. One reason is that Othello gave his promotion to Cassio over him and the other is that Iago believes Othello has been sleeping with his wife, Emilia. During one of Iago’s earlier soliloquies, he says, “I hate the Moor. And it is thought abroad that ’twixt my sheets ’Has done my office.” The use of a double entendre here suggests that Iago has heard a rumour about Othello sleeping with Emilia. “Has done my office,” refers to Othello taking his space in bed. Iago hates Othello for this as he loves Emilia and is disgusted to think that she may be sleeping with another man. As such his hate for Othello spelled from his love for Emilia. Without even considering if the rumour is true or false, Iago hatches a plan to ruin Othello. This is very ironic considering Iago then proceeds to kill Emilia at the end of the text when she outs him to the soldiers. It suggests that love makes people do incredibly stupid things, Iago should have been happy with what he had, he had a nice wife, was trusted by everyone and had a decent job. Despite not getting the promotion he wanted, he was still very well off compared to many other people living during that time. Shakespeare highlights the human psyche through the theme of love and hate. He suggests that humans can very quickly turn on one another, particularly when love becomes tarnished. Iago, although often seen as highly intelligent, really didn’t think his plan through before he went ahead with it. He simply could have attacked the problem at its source by confronting Emilia or Othello himself about the cheating claim. He did not need to proceed to ruin Othello’s life and kill his own wife simply because he heard a little rumour. Iago’s behaviour suggests that love and hate run at opposite ends of the scale, love can make people crazy and often develops a deep sense of hatred in many.
When love and hate meet, jealousy follows. Amongst the themes of love and hate in Othello, there is much mention of jealousy and its power. Jealousy is, by its nature, an incredibly powerful force. It stems from the love of what someone has but also has an aspect of hatred that they have something you don’t. Jealousy is a prominent theme in Othello and is the catalyst for many key moments in the text. Shakespeare introduces this idea during Act 3, Scene 3. Iago says, “Beware, my Lord of Jealousy, it doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Foreshadowing is used here to suggest what is to come. Shakespeare is also referring to Jealousy as a type of beast that would consume a person. This is also quite ironic considering it is Iago’s jealousy of Cassio and Othello that catalysed his decision to try and ruin Othello’s life. Many characters throughout the play show what impact jealousy has; Iago, Othello and even Bianca (Cassio’s lover), all show the power of jealousy at some point in the text. It is one of the most prominent themes in the text and is present in many aspects of the play. Shakespeare shows that jealousy stems from the combination of love and hate via these characters. Othello once loved Desdemona but this quickly turned to hate as he believed her to be cheating on him. The middle ground between his love and his hate of her was him becoming extremely jealous. Iago loved his job but hated both Othello and Cassio because he didn’t get the promotion he wanted. As a result, he became extremely jealous. Bianca loved Cassio but believed she was cheating on her due to the handkerchief. As a result, her love turned to jealousy. Shakespeare used the well-known themes of love and hate to highlight how they create jealousy. This is an interesting idea considering jealous people wouldn’t admit to loving the person they were jealous of. By highlighting this idea, Shakespeare is opening the reader up to a different perspective on these common themes. He is suggesting that jealousy stems from love and leads to hate. It is where love and hate meet that jealousy occurs.
Othello, written by William Shakespeare is a very well-written text. It explores the themes of love and hate and suggests that these are found on the same scale. Through the use of language techniques and characters in the play, he shows how quickly love turns to hate, how hate spells from love and how the point at which love and hate meet is where jealousy occurs. Shakespeare encourages the reader to look at these familiar ideas in new ways. He suggests that love and hate exist on the same scale, for this reason, they cannot exist at the same time.