Shakespeare’s “green-eyed monster” is often a key component in romance novels. Jealousy as a character trait or as a major conflict or motivation has been used in the romance field with great success for decades. Because jealousy is an emotion all humans are forced to deal with at some time (jealousy has been observed in babies as young as five months old according to Dr. Sybil Hart), it is familiar to us and therefore is a condition that we can relate to and sympathize with in either the hero or heroine.
Jealousy and envy have come to be used interchangeably, however, they are actually two different concepts. The emotion of jealousy arises when you are feeling insecure, fearful, and anxious over an anticipated loss of something you value very much. Envy is when we covet something that someone else has. In other words, jealousy is when you fear losing something you value, and envy is when you want to attain something of perceived value you do not already possess. The confusion may lie in the fact that we can experience both jealousy and envy simultaneously.
One love story in which jealousy and envy both play a huge part is Shakespeare’s Othello.
Othello suspects his wife Desdemona is having an affair and he is jealous of her: feels suspicion and anger at her perceived betrayal, fears losing her, and distrusts her, all symptoms of jealousy. Iago, his nemesis, on the other hand, is envious of Othello: he resents his circumstances, he feels ill will toward Othello, the person whose success and position he envies, and he desires to obtain the positive attributes of Othello, whom he envies these traits.
Jealousy tends to be a more male dominated emotion, although women have their jealous moments as well. I have used jealousy as a dominant trait in two of my books, Sir Geoffrey Longford was extremely jealous of Lady Alyse in my Time Enough to Love series, and Lady Juliet Ferrars is quite jealous of the man she loves when he shows an interest in a former flame in Only Marriage Will Do, to be released in June. I hope you enjoy their struggles with the “green-eyed monster!”