Today I’m pondering the “green eyed monster.” Not the large wall in left field at Fenway Park. The Shakespearean one. Jealousy.
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:
But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Iago, of course, warns Othello about the danger of jealousy, even as he stokes the emotion. Renaissance men were apparently very worried about their wives cheating on them. Wearing a cuckold’s horns was a dreaded disgrace. I wonder if the later belief that women didn’t enjoy sex was promoted by men in the hope that saying it made it so. Then their wives wouldn’t be tempted to stray.
Poor Desdemona. She’s completely innocent and everything she does makes things worse. The object of unwarranted jealousy is a miserable being.
I’m writing about a jealous hero now. Not Othello jealous. The heroine is not going to end up dead. But definitely suspicious. I’m not sure how far to take things, so I’m going to consult our resident expert, Regency London’s combination of Anne Landers and Miss Manners.
Miranda: Ahem. Lady B.
Lady B: Oh, it’s you Miss Neville. I didn’t notice you arrive.
Miranda: You were too busy ogling the Marquess of Bourne and Lord Blackwood.
Lady B: Impertinent Miss N. [pause] They do both have excellent legs. I have it on good authority that Miss MacLean and Miss Ashe are going to marry off these gentlemen at the end of this month [note: she’s right. A Rogue by Any Other Name and When a Scot Loves a Lady are coming February 28]. So let me ogle in peace while they are still bachelors.
Miranda: What does Lord B. think of your excessive interest in masculine pulchritude? If he even knows about it.
Lady B: Lord B. knows everything.
Miranda: I had to ask. Since none of us has ever been allowed to meet him, I wondered if perhaps he lived elsewhere. Scotland, for example. Or the moon.
Lady B: Curiosity killed the cat. For your information Lord B. is never far away and I tell him everything. He shall hear about your snippiness today.
Miranda: I do beg your pardon, Lady B. What I meant to ask was, does Lord B. ever get jealous? After all, not only are you an admirer–an entirely disinterested admirer–of a good pair of male limbs, you’ve also been known to engage in badinage with handsome guests at the ballroom.
Lady B: What of it? Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’m dead. I like to flirt as much as any debutante miss.
Miranda: And Lord B. doesn’t mind?
Lady B: Before we wed the dear man would go into agonies of jealousy. I loved to tease him and his ravings were deliciously pathetic. But now he knows I love him and would never stray. He trusts me completely.
Miranda: So you think it all comes down to trust and security in a partner’s affections?
Lady B: Exactly. And it goes both ways. When we go to Brighton in the summer there’s nothing he enjoys more than looking through his telescope at the young ladies sea bathing. I encourage it. Keeps him away from the whist table and the port.
So, Ballroom denizens, what do you think? How much jealousy is acceptable and when does it go over the top? How about flirtation? Once you are married/in a fixed relationship is flirting a No-No or a Heck Yes?