The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0369 Wednesday, 14 February 2001
Date: Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 03:03:10 +0900
Subject: green-eyed monster
Can anyone help with the idea of jealousy as a "green-eyed monster"? I
may have missed something, and I can't even find a copy of the old
Variorum of Othello. I can at least say how far I've got, although I
doubt that it's far enough.
I am supposing that the eyes, not the greenness, are primary. In other
words, I'm supposing that to be sexually "jealous" is NOT unrelated to
being "jealous" in the other familiar and Shakespearean sense: being
vigilantly watchful, especially in relation to other people's interests.
Those who are sexually jealous, like Othello or (is it a different
matter?!) those who suffer from what psychologists unfairly call "the
Othello syndrome", are vigilantly and dangerously watchful on their own
The association with eyes or seeing is what seems primary. If so,
numerous connections and parallels are very interesting. For example, to
be "envious" (cf. the Latin "Invidia") involves regarding somebody else
in a particular, hostile way (in-videre), just as being "prudent"
involves looking after oneself by seeing ahead (pro-videre). But then,
why are the eyes green? Similarly dangerous animals, reptiles, or what?
Of course, Marvell is the great poet of greenness, but is that yet
another part of his immense debt to Shakespeare? Colostrum, the first
(gloriously) sweet breast-milk that first persuaded all or most of us
that being born wasn't a disaster, was called "green" milk. And
Desdemona and Ophelia are "green" girls, etc. But why are the green-eyed
monster's eyes green?