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Othello Study Guide

 Othello: The Annotated Play
 Play Construction and the Suffering and Murder of Desdemona
 Lectures on Othello: Othello's Jealousy
 The Moral Enigma of Shakespeare's Othello

 Othello as Tragic Hero
 Stage History of Othello
 Othello: Plot Summary
 Othello: Q & A
 Quotes from Othello

 How to Pronounce the Names in Othello
 Iago Character Introduction
 Othello Character Introduction
 Desdemona Character Introduction
 Iago's Motives: The Relationship Between Othello and Iago
 Shakespeare and Race: The Relationship Between Othello and Desdemona

 Othello: Essay Topics
 Shakespeare's Sources for Othello
 The Problem of Time in Othello

 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama

 Shakespeare Quotations (by Play and Theme)
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels
Quote in Context

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
                                    Othello (3.3), Iago

We are all familiar with the above quote, as it is one of Shakespeare's most famous. But what exactly is the green-eyed monster? It seems every editor has a different take on this passage, with many trying to make the lines work around the concept of green as sickly. Some editors have even changed mock to make in order to fit their annotations - Hanmer and Hudson being the most famous. Others have listed off surprising candidates for the monster, including a dragonfly and an ape. It all becomes a bit silly and would no doubt give Shakespeare himself a good chuckle.

It seems very simply that Shakespeare was imagining a cat (known for its giant green eyes), delighting in tormenting (mocking) its victim (meat) before devouring it. What a vivid picture this interpretation gives us of jealousy, tormenting the mind of the jealous man with a barrage of suspicions before it consumes him completely. A similar vision was in the poet's mind when he constructed The Rape of Lucrece:
Yet, foul night-waking cat, he doth but dally,
While in his hold-fast foot the weak mouse panteth:
Her sad behavior feeds his vulture folly. (254-256)