Jealousy is one of the strongest emotions which is often portrayed in the arts. It often causes people to experience a wide range of feelings, from insecurity to fear of rejection and anxiety. Jealousy is a destructive emotion that has the power to ruin relationships and threaten the trust between people. It is sometimes considered a byproduct of fear of loss, and it can become more than a natural sign of love turning into irrational suspicion and obsessiveness. All this spectrum of jealousy emotion is portrayed in different kinds of art, particularly in visual art, prose, and even mythology.
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In the play “Othello,” written by William Shakespeare, jealousy is the most prominent theme which causes the majority of the drama and has deplorable consequences. Othello becomes full of jealousy when he finds out about the affair of his wife Desdemona. Blinded by this emotion, he believes Iago’s false evidence and becomes furious. Othello immediately decides that Desdemona must die, saying: “I will chop her into messes. Cuckold me!” (Shakespeare, p. 238). It clearly shows that Othello’s mind is shadowed by jealousy, and he becomes irrational and obsessed with revenge. Iago uses Desdemona’s handkerchief to manipulate Othello in thinking that his wife is unfaithful. In the play, handkerchief is a multifaceted symbol of chastity, love, and betrayal. Therefore, it transitions from symbol of Desdemona’s fidelity to a sign of her unfaithfulness. In “Othello,” the author shows how jealousy can become an obsession that deprives the main character of common sense and justice. It ultimately leads to the death of several characters and Othello’s suicide.
Greek mythology portrays various examples of jealousy within relationships. For instance, Hera, the wife of Zeus, is jealous of her husband having affairs with different women. She uses her magic powers to seek revenge against not only Zeus himself, but also his lover, and offspring who come from Zeus’s affairs. Throughout Greek mythology, Hera is portrayed in a grotesque way as a bitter and jealous wife. Her behavior is led by sexual jealousy and fear that mistresses will give Zeus a child more powerful than she did. This motive is clearly expressed in the myth about Io, whom Zeus turned into a white heifer to protect from his wife. However, Hera found out and sent a gadfly to torment Io for eternity (“Greek Myth About Io”). Even though Hera had reasons for being jealous, it has become a sense of her life and made her miserable.
One of the famous examples of jealousy in art is the painting “Jealousy” by Edvard Munch. The painting portrays a presumably real love triangle: the poet Stanislaw Przybyszewski, and his wife Dagny Juell, with whom Munch had an amorous connection (Munch). The artist uses the biblical allegory of Adam and Eve to converge such emotions as jealousy, passion, and temptation. In the front, there is a man who draws attention the most with devastation and destructive feeling. The painting has a deep philosophical meaning, which makes the audience think about the harmful nature of jealousy showed through the unusual combination of palettes.
After analyzing the topic of jealousy in art, it can be said that this emotion brings negative properties and affects not only the relationship between two persons but also those who around them. It can be compared to the parasite which eats the love life and relationships from within. If not dealt with, jealousy can lead to destructive consequences through obsession and irrationality and leave a harmful imprint on the mental state of a person.