During your study of Othello, you will encounter many unfamiliar words. One of them is a cuckold. This term was frequently employed during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The term cuckold appears in Shakespeare’s Othello to symbolize the protagonist’s anxiety about his wife’s infidelity.
The word “cuckold,” which was originally a term for a wife who strayed from her husband, is still in use today. The concept of cuckoldry was frequently addressed in English literature throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This may be attributed to men’s desire to feel superior over women.
The word “cuckoldry” was first used in Othello when Iago defiles the term and makes people concerned about being cuckolded by their spouse. The crafty villain says:
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!”
(Act 3, scene 2)
Othello trusts blindly in Iago’s allegations about Desdemona’s adultery with Cassio. In reality, there was no wrongdoing on both Desdemona and Cassio’s parts. Othello, on the other hand, was maliciously misled by Iago’s jealousy for the young lieutenant and his own insecurities.
The cuckoo bird’s habits are alluding to the word “cuckold,” which refers to a man whose wife is unfaithful with another guy. The story of Shakespeare’s cuckoldry in the play was not new for the English theater of his day. Such disloyalty from women was common in real-life families as a result of men’s possessive attitude towards their spouses.
In the medieval, renaissance, Elizabethan, and Restoration drama, being cuckolded was a frequent occurrence. Cuckolds were frequently seen in comedies as idiots to be mocked and despised. In the darker tones of a tragedy, the spouse was frequently regarded as an innocent victim who had been defiled by their wife’s betrayal.
The intricacies and complexity of the Othello plot defy summarization, but to put it briefly, we may say that while its tragedy lies in the betrayal of trust by a wife who claims to be faithful, its comedy arises from Othello’s obliviousness to his real wife’s infidelity.