Aspects of jealousy as treated by Shakespeare.
Szlosek, Joseph Francis
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Jealousy as an emotion with its various degrees of intensity proves to be no unique or novel theme in literature. Its existence is found in such ancient Greek and Roman stories as those of Masistes, Phaedra, and Medea where the emotion is a violent one and the consequences resulting in murder and often suicides. Then moving along through the centuries we examine such plays as Jonson's Everyman in His Humour, Ford's Broken Heart, Wycherley's Country Wife; Beaumarchais' Barber of Seville, Goldoni's Mistress of the Inn, Augier and Sandeu's Son-in-Law of M. Poirier. Some of these plays portray jealousy in its milder forms where it is forgiven or treated jocularly with no serious consequences as its aftermath. Others show the more serious and grave aspect of this strong and violent emotion. That William Shakespeare treated so popular and yet so complicated a theme is not particularly revelatory. As a matter of fact, by virtue of his being a master dramatist, we expected the usage of such a theme and were not disappointed. He did protray jealousy and his superb treatment of the idea proved to us that his conceptions of the emotion were similar to those of other authors who were his predecessors as well as those who followed him. The principal notions involved in the definition originated with Robert Burton (1577-1640) in his sixteenth century analysis of the emotion: that taken seriously, jealousy proves a "hellish torture," bu when accepted in a light vein, it may be calmed with no particularly distressing consequences. Shakespeare, the Immoral Bard, portrayed the emotion both as violent and serious, and as mild and humorous. According to hsi conception likewise, the impending results of jealousy depend to a great extent on the person in which they are embodied. For example, jealousy caused serious and bitter unhappiness in the tragedies Richard the Third, King Lear, and Othello; it was considered jestful in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the mental torments and distress were assuaged as the jealousy calmed in Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale; in the plays As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing, jealousy and its penalties were not particularly emphasized primarily because these were light and airy love plays. The opinions of erudite critics of Shakespearean drama were cited to bolster our thesis. We enumerated S.T. Coleridge's list of characteristics which he claimed a jealous person should possess in order to be properly classified as such. We depended primarily upon E.E. Stoll to prove that Othello actually fits into the category of a jealous person.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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