I just finished reading Shakespeare’s Othello with my sons for school and was once again reminded why Shakespeare is regarded as a genius. He not only had a way with words but he deeply understood the human condition.
Othello is a moving portrayal of the terrible power of slander, suspicion and jealousy. It was painful at certain points as I saw this loving young couple torn apart by the conniving slander of Iago. Othello and Desdemona are devoted to one another, newly married and deeply in love. But, Iago, proud of his “divinity of hell,” insinuates and cultivates baseless suspicions of infidelity in Othello’s mind so that Othello begins to hate his bride and eventually kills her. Part of the power of the portrayal is that it makes sense- you can see why Othello falls for the lies, why others caught in Iago’s web of deceit are sucked in. The frailty of human nature is accurately portrayed.
The tragedy serves to warn us against the danger of slander, suspicion and jealousy. In our own relationships we must beware the insidious erosion of evil suspicion. I’m sure Elvis was pondering Othello when he sang, “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.” There is a proper jealousy, such as God has, but combined with evil suspicion, jealous is warped and deadly. Only open communication and ready repentance can save us from this monster.
Further, I was reminded of how grateful that Christ is a better husband to the church than Othello was to Desdemona. Although we are not faithful and chaste like Desdemona, Jesus remains ever faithful and unlike Othello does not destroy us. Instead he bears with our weakness and forgives us. This also reminded me, once more, that all the great stories are, in one way or the other, reflections of the Great Story.