Everything is Green these days. As usual, I suppose, Shakespeare got it right, but before I go on to expand upon that somewhat cryptic remark just let me say that Jealousy, the green-eyed monster, is alive and well, according to the findings of a fairly recent international study. Apparently, men are mostly jealous about sexual adventures, while women are jealous about emotional attachments. Whether this is due to environment, evolution or culture is something experts disagree upon.
But why should jealousy be Green? Green is, admittedly, a colour associated with sickness, possibly because people’s skin sometimes takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge when they are seriously ill. And Green is also the colour of many unripe fruits that might cause stomach pains. But other than that, why Green?
But back to the Bard! The phrase was used by, and possibly coined by, Shakespeare in 1596 to denote jealousy in The Merchant of Venice when he has Portia say: ?How all the other passions fleet to air,
As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,?And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy! O love,?Be moderate; allay thy ecstasy,?In measure rein thy joy; scant this excess.?I feel too much thy blessing: make it less,?For fear I surfeit.
Now you could spend the rest of the day trying to work out what Portia really wanted, but for the moment let it suffice that she was not too keen on jealousy and wanted her chappie to calm down a bit.
Half a dozen years later, in 1604, Willie still had a thing about Green. In Othello he alludes to cats as green-eyed monsters in the way that they play with mice before killing them. Lago proclaims:?O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;?It is the green-eyed 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 damned minutes tells he o’er?who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Clearly, jealousy leads or led to muddled thinking even in the time of good old Bill.
Men tend to be most jealous about their partners having sex with someone else. It seems that males need to know if their rival was good in bed – or better yet, bigger. It used to be thought that jealousy in men could also be due to the fact that a man could never be absolutely certain that a child was really his; of course, DNA testing has taken the uncertainty and fun out of on-the-side pregnancies.
Men seem pretty confused about their desire for a partner not to have sex with another man. It seems that men may be upset by sex because they think it implies emotional commitment, although they also believe a woman can be emotionally involved without having sex. Or at least, that’s how I read the report.
Women are more likely to be upset about their partners forming an emotional attachment with someone else; females want to know if he loves the “other woman”. Women are upset by emotional infidelity because they believe that for men it automatically means sex. At the same time, women believe that men can have sex without commitment. It may also be possible, that the origin of jealousy in women is due to the substantial investment they make in producing a child; an investment that would be “wasted” if their partner fell in love with someone else. On the other hand, many a woman left with a child to take care of without paternal support might appear to go along with the situation with a certain equanimity. She has, after
all, “her child”, an attitude I find quite disturbing.
And finally, here’s something for you to get your teeth into: It seems that the fertility rate of a country affects jealousy. Men in countries with high fertility rates are very jealous about their partners having sex with others. Men in countries with lower fertility rates seem less concerned. How women feel about infidelity in infertile environments is not clear.