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Comparison Between Othello and Paradise Lost

by Suleman


The power of jealousy is so devastating that it does not care about relationships. It seeks to find its way by eliminating anything or anyone who stands on its way and stops at nothing unless it has achieved the goal or is permanently stopped by a more potent force. The following discussion will focus on the theme of jealousy as it is demonstrated in the story of paradise lost and that of Othello.


The story Othello and Paradise Lost are related in the sense that in both of them, the predominant theme is jealousy. Paradise Lost is a story by John Milton which portrays a Christian story showing the fall of man as it is quoted from the first book of Paradise Lost by Milton (1.3), “of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal task Brought Death into the World, and all our woe.’ This explains that as a result of disobedience, man lost the paradise where he was meant to live forever. It begins with a commotion in heaven where Lucifer is waging war with God’s angels. The devil says, ‘On this side nothing; and by proof, we feel Our power sufficient to disturb his Heav’n’ (Milton. 2. 103). He is said to have been the most excellent choirmaster in heaven and had extensive choir abilities. This gave him so much pride that he wanted to usurp God’s position as it can be observed from the quote in the Paradise Lost book “Either to disenthrone the King of Heav’n We warr, if Warr is best, or to regain (Milton.2.231). He was so determined to wage war with God’s kingdom. War subsequently broke between the angels whom he had been able to woo and those who were still with God.

Comparison Between Othello and Paradise Lost

Lucifer could, however, not match the offensive war mounted by God’s Angels. He was defeated and cast into hell. From that moment, hatred was created between God and the devil, and therefore, he has been looking for the opportunity to avenge by destroying those that want to relate with God.

Lucifer’s clear manifestation of jealousy is demonstrated in the Garden of Eden after the creation of Adam and Eve. The two were created to have a healthy fellowship with their creator. Adam was created first and even was made from his ribs. The two were placed in the garden, which to them was a paradise for the reason that they did not have to toil for anything. God had already made everything for them and gave them the power to have dominion over all other created things.

From Hell or Tartarus, as it is referred, Satan summons his mammon and Beelzebub where they have an intensive discussion on how they are going to destroy the relationship between God and the couple. All this evil emanates from the anger that he was cast into hell and still wants to prove that he is powerful. After that, Satan comes out in a bid to poison the whole earth by making it flooded with sin.

He begins his plan by approaching Eve on several occasions with rhetoric, which is the use of language in the most convincing way that it appeals to the listener. He used logic and creativity to prove to Eve why they needed to eat the fruit that God had warned them against. He understood that God had warned them against eating the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden as it is recorded in the Paradise Lost story “So various, not to taste that only Tree Of knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life, So neer grows Death to Life, what ere Death is,’(Milton.4.425). He eventually succeeded in his evil plan by making Eve pluck the fruit in the middle of the garden and have a taste of it.

It is said that Adam noticed that Eve had sinned against God. He was, however, willing to die with her than living without her since she was part of whom he was because she was made from his flesh and blood. It is recorded that Adam was also convinced by Eve to take the same fruit making both of them unfaithful to their creator. 

The devil was succeeding in his jealous act in the sense that immediately Adam ate the fruit, both of them had lustful sexual intercourse, something that had not happened before. The story explains that this experience made Adam get convinced that Eve was right in the act of disobeying God. However, it had not dawned on them about the repercussions of what they had just done. They had not realized that the devil was out to bring an end to their fellowship with their creator. They were also not aware of the jealousy that the devil had upon them and the vengeance that he craved to take against God.

It is recorded that they fell into a deep sleep and had terrible nightmares. Such are things they had not experienced since they were placed in this paradise. This was when it came to their realization that they had committed a terrible sin against God. They knew nothing about nakedness, but now when they woke up, they realized that they needed to cover themselves. Life was beginning to change very fast. They had been promised by the devil that after eating the fruit, they would have the knowledge of good and evil and that they would become wise like God himself.

An angel of God is said to have taken Adam through a vision to see what he had caused the whole world to go through. The errors that they had committed is reported to have culminated in a sea of sins in the world as a whole. That was the initial plan of the devil of destroying the beauty that God had created and made sure that man did not worship God.

The consequence of this was that the relationship between Adam and God became distant. God, who was initially omnipresent and visible, became invisible to them. He would visit them, and they would have a conversation before they sinned, but now everything had to change due to their unfaithfulness.

The devil was rejoicing to have succeeded in his mission after having taken his revenge. This is demonstrated by the fact that God became so angry with the couple he had so much loved. This prompted Him to cast them out of the paradise he had given them where they had no struggles in their lives. The Angel Michael was sent to guard over it and to see that Adam did not come back. The relationship was now broken, and there was to be an eternal separation between God and man.

As the devil was celebrating his victory, the Son of Man Jesus Christ was pleading with his father to allow him to be the redemption and bring back the fellowship between God and man. This is according to what is recorded in the Paradise Lost story, ‘till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.’(Milton.1.100). This quote in book one explains that man had hopes of enjoyed fellowship with God again if someone higher came to provide a bridge. God agreed, and this meant that the devil had not fully succeeded in creating an eternal separation.

The central theme in the above story is jealousy in the sense that the devil realized that God created man so that he could offer worship and praise to him. He too wanted to be worshipped, and because he had lost that chance, he did not want God to have it either. This is the reason why he was looking for an opportunity to destroy the kind of fellowship God enjoyed his creation.

Paradise lost story compares with that of Othello in the sense that the whole of Othello is dominated by jealousy. The only difference is that while paradise lost is spiritual, this particular one is secular and does not involve supernatural beings as we have seen above.

Othello was a prince who had a rank of general in the Venetian army. He had two closest soldiers who assisted him in his duty who were Iago and Cassio. In this particular essay, we focus on Iago since he is the reason why the theme is so profound.

It is said that Othello awarded a promotion to Cassio to become a lieutenant at a time when Iago was openly more prominent and had a belief that this promotion deserved him more than it did Cassio. It is this promotion that breeds hatred and jealousy and generates so much loathing and pain in Iago’s heart that he is looking for an opportunity to take revenge and reclaim that post instead. According to him, Cassio was a Scholarly tactician with no field experience as he had. He was the one who ‘deserved’ the promotion instead. This made him start planning on what to do to gain his desired or otherwise deserved position.

It is said that there was a celebration at the palace and people had a fan. Iago in his bid to succeed; knew that he had to utilize this opening to destroy Cassio’s reputation. He planned to make him extraordinarily drunk and make him get into a fight with Roderigo. He succeeded in it, and immediately, Othello appeared to quell the situation. He was so angry with Cassio his lieutenant for being responsible for the whole commotion and shame and for acting irresponsibly. He did not, therefore, hesitate to demote him and relieve him of his duty.

This was Iago’s first successful attempt, but he pretended to be very sorry and willing to offer assistance in order see to the successful reinstatement of Cassio. He goes ahead to entice and advise Cassio to approach Desmodema who is Othello’s wife and pleads with her to talk to the husband within the house and to try to convince him to reinstate Cassio.

Cassio knew not that this was a plan that was meant to add an insult to an injury priory secretly secured by Iago. They met on several occasions with Othello’s wife, but they stuck to the objective. While all this was happening, Iago took that opportunity to create a picture that the two were having an affair. He took the news to Othello who at first did not believe Iago since he trusted his wife for the reason that he had never cheated on him before. He could not contemplate the fact that such a thing would happen. It was not possible.

Iago knew that he had to devise a new way. He asked his wife Emilia, who also happened to be Desmodema’s maidservant to steal a handkerchief from her mistress. This was a much-honored present that Othello had given to her to express his love and commitment to her. Iago took the tissue and made sure that he placed it in Cassio’s lodgings. This would serve as a proof that Desmodema had been visiting him and that the two had been having an affair.

Iago moved to Othello to prove to him that his wife was unfaithful. He explained that she had even given the present that he had bought her to Cassio. He was so furious and asked Iago to help him in killing Cassio. He is promised promotion after doing this.

This is Iago’s happiest moment because he knows that he is going to succeed in reclaiming the position that he was dying to have. While he was planning the murder of Cassio, Othello on the other side was plotting to smother his wife while they lay in bed. Iago approached Roderigo once again and told him to help in the murder of Cassio. He quickly accepted since he did not like Cassio. He ambushed him in the street, and the two struggled in the fight. Iago noted that Cassio was much more reliable for Roderigo and he disguised himself before cutting him in the leg. He then hid before the arrival of the officers who had come to Cassio’s rescue. He emerged to join them and to pretend that he knew nothing. It is said that he stubbed Roderigo and killed him so that he would not confess and put him to trouble.

While all that was happening, Othello was on the other side, strangling his wife. It happened that Emilio got into his room and was shocked by what she saw. Othello said that she deserved to die for cheating on him. When he mentioned about the handkerchief, it dawned on her that her husband plotted the whole thing. Othello was so angry when he realized that he had killed his innocent wife.

Immediately, Iago and some officers entered Othello’s room. He had not realized that all his plans had been disclosed. Othello moved to attack him but then realized that torture would be the best thing for him so that he could pay for the evil that he had caused. Iago realized that his wife had set him up and immediately jumped on her and murdered her on the spot.

The officers moved in and apprehended both Othello and Iago. It is said that Othello opted to commit suicide rather than be taken into custody. Iago, on the other side, was chosen for torture, and it is thought that he was finally executed.

The two stories, therefore, are comparing in the sense that they express the theme of jealousy. They also compare in that both Satan in Paradise Lost and Iago in Othello do not achieve their goals. They only manage temporary success and terminal happiness at this achievement which soon comes to an end. The only contrast is that the two protagonists in Othello die while they remain in the Paradise Lost.


The theme of jealousy is so profound in the two stories. In both the two pieces, the evil characters try to reclaim their lost glory by eliminating the one’s that deserved it. The two, however, do not succeed fully in their plans though they cause a lot of damage and enjoy brief joyful moments as a result; which is extreme agony for others. Jealousy is, therefore, a powerful force that should be avoided since it results in devastating events.

  • Butler, G “Giants and Fallen Angels in Dante and Milton: The Commedia and the Gigantomachy in Paradise Lost”, Modern Philosophy 95 (3): 352–363. 998
  • Anderson, G “The Fall of Satan in the Thought of St. Ephrem and John Milton”: Journal of Syriac Studies 3 (1), 2000 http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol3No1/HV3N1Anderson.html
  • Biberman, M Milton: Marriage, and a Woman’s Right to Divorce, SEL Studies in English Literature 39 (1): 131–153, DOI:10.2307/1556309. 1999

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