chapter  13
‘Even now, now, very now …’ : On envy and the hatred of love
Pages 16

Othello , Shakespeare’s great tragedy of domestic violence, provides the most powerful example in literature of how destructive envy involves a triangular situation in which the envious self is the tormented outsider, and consists in an attack the aim of which is to obliterate love itself. For Iago, the sight of love between two people is so unbearable, so utterly tormenting, that it must not be allowed to exist in his mind; to prevent it, he must constantly debase it by creating an obscene – to him exciting rather than tormenting – version of intercourse, which must also be projected into the lover’s mind. Othello is tormented by delusional sexual jealousy which is fuelled by Iago’s constant pornographic projections; his love turns into hatred, and he commits murder. But Shakespeare’s beautiful play ultimately shows us what Othello’s profound despair is about: it is the idea of goodness itself, of love, being not only lost for ever, but felt as never having really existed, which causes his descent into madness.