The Green-eyed Monster??

Our adventure through The Winter's Tale continues in our Truth, Beauty, Goodness Co-op.  I like to introduce each act with some interesting information that will enhance the students' reading.  We began this play by discussing King Leontes' major problem - jealousy.  I introduced the idiom "the green-eyed monster" and we talked about the devastating consequences of a life lived with jealousy, citing other literary and biblical characters that have displayed this attribute.  Things got a little interesting when a thoughtful face asked, "But isn't our God a jealous God?"

Turns out Shakespeare doesn't actually use the term "green-eyed monster" in The Winter's Tale, so imagine my surprise when I came across the etymology for this phrase and discovered that he was the first to use it in print in Othello!  I found this information while reviewing the book Why You Say It by Webb Garrison.  Here's Garrison's brief explanation for the "green eyed monster":

Casting about for a vivid way to describe jealousy, the Bard of Avon remembered that many cats have green eyes.  Not necessarily correctly, he seems to have considered cats to be cruel and vindictive.

Therefore, in Othello (Act III), he called jealousy the green-eyed monster - comparing it with a cat that to a human appears to play with the bird or mole it has captured and is about to eat. p. 8*
Since I enjoy and collect books on etymology, I was happy to review Why You Say It for Thomas Nelson Publishers.  When my copy arrived, I sat down to dig into its self-described "fascinating stores behind over 600 Everyday Words and Phrases."  Soon, I fell asleep.

The entries are brief and easy to read and will make fine copy for both car and bathroom trips.  They are also a bit shallow and more than once I was wishing there was much more information.  Then again, Mr. Garrison himself states that this isn't intended to be a scholarly work and hopes that you have lots of fun and perhaps learn something along the way.  Maybe, as in the case of the green-eyed monster, but maybe not...

Happy St. Patrick's Day,


*In looking up this expression, I found explanations ranging from oriental jade powder to green complexions.  While the above post information is true, I will go with the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Henrickson which states, "However, before this (Othello reference), in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote of green-eyed jealousy without any reference to a feline.  We must mark the ultimate origin unknown."   Sigh.


  1. I love word meanings. Love finding out all the words and phrases Shakespeare made up. I like using my Strong's concordance. It bring richness to the whole thing. I am getting ready to do a post on this very topic soon!

  2. Thanks, Nancy, and looking forward to your post, Pam...I also love word meanings, and to see which idioms translate identically from Spanish, and which are exclusive to each language...then I'd use a Spanish idiom translated into English by me, and make my friends laugh :-), sometimes they sound as bad fortune cookie readings, sometimes they leave the person puzzled...
    And despite not having a known origin, I enjoyed your findings about this expression.

  3. Love this! I, too, love to know the origins of expressions like this. :)

  4. A thought on "jealous." Our God is a Jealous God, and I like to note the difference between jealousy and envy. Jealous over your own, and envious of others. It is good for God to be jealous over His people, and good for us to be jealous over our children's hearts. It is wrong for us to be envious of what others have. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. I like to say something about this to make sure that we never cast doubt on our God and His ways.

    Came here via the CM Carnival and enjoyed your post!


  5. I love word origins, too, Nancy, and just happened upon your post. You might find intriguing the book THE WORD: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Source of English. It was given to me and I have found it fascinating!


  6. Thanks, Lori! I will look that title up!

    Sursum Corda,