Desdemona: Loyal Wife of Othello
Othello is also a unique tragedy in that it focuses on the destruction of love through sexual jealousy. It is a domestic tragedy. Othello is, however, a truly romantic character because he is very passionate and full of deep feelings. It keeps one wondering what could have possibly brought the sweet Desdemona to be his wife. Was it because he has lived a life of adventure and war and he is somewhat exotic due to his origins and dark complexion? On the other hand, is it because she fell head over heels in love with him because he represented all that was noble and strong. She tells her father, Brabantio, in 1.3 that she fell in love with his character and the wonderful stories that he has told her about his life.
Whatever the case may be, Desdemona represents the innocence, truth and goodness of the play. She truly represents the goodness and light associated with "true love." Her father troubled by her love for Othello insists that she abandon her love for the Moor and obey his wishes. In 1.3 lines182-191 she tells Brabantio how she loves him according to her bond.
"My father I do perceive here a divided duty.
To you I am bound for the life and education;
My life and education both do learn me
How to respect you. You are the lord of duty;
I am hitherto your daughter. But here's my
And so much duty as my mother showed
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor my lord!
This young beautiful and bold asks the Duke if she can go with Othello to Cyprus so that whe will not just be a "moth of peace" while her noble husband is fighting for their country. The Duke, like all of the characters in the play, respects Desdemona and her wishes and allows her to leave with Othello.
Desdemona is given a handkerchief with strawberries on it on her wedding day from Othello. This wedding gift ultimately destroys her. It is wrapped up in Moorish mysticism and deep meaning for her husband. She adores it and keeps it with her at all times. The issue of the handkerchief and its ownership easily becomes one of the
most crucial plot points of the play. Although the actual occurrences are only mentioned
in the play, an Egyptian first gave the handkerchief to Othello's mother, and she then gave it to her son upon her deathbed to give to his future wife.
"She told her, while she
'Twould make her amiable and subdue my father
Entirely to her love, but if she lost it
Or made a gift of it, my father's eye
Should hold her loathed, and his spirits should hunt
After new fancies." (3.2, 60-64)
Little does Desdemona realize the true meaning of the cursed handkerchief. As long as his mother had the handkerchief, his father would remain happy. The parallel to her life becomes self-evident unfortunately for her too little too late. When the handkerchief disappears so does Othello's trust in her. When Othello and Desdemona marry, he gives it to her. In this instance, the handkerchief symbolizes the love a wife holds for her husband and how to lose it or give it away would symbolize to him loss of love it somehow is transformed into the marital bond. Here we can seriously characterize Desdemona as the tragic character. How could her husband be so simple minded as to put so much faith in a piece of muslin? How could he distrust her so easily and trust Iago so completely. Sure camaraderie between fellow soldiers is to be expected, but over your mate? Othello makes a crucial mistake.
When Desdemona loses the handkerchief Emilia finds it and steals it away. The implication is that the doomed Desdemona has also lost her husband's love. Emilia then
gives the handkerchief to her husband Iago, who has expressed a great interest in the unusual item. To Iago, the handkerchief is the realization of all his furtive plotting--the final piece of "evidence" needed to convince Othello of Desdemona's infidelity and Cassio's disloyalty.
Desdemona feeds the fire of his jealousy unknowingly. By trying to mend things between Cassio and her husband she dumps kerosene on his burning mistrust of her. She had no idea that he was prying her about the whereabouts of the handkerchief in an attempt to be proven wrong in his suspicions of an affair between his wife and Cassio only to find her defending him again.
"Why, so I can, sir, but I will not now.
This is a trick to put me from my suit.
Pray you, let Cassio be received again." (3.4 lines 89-91)
She is adding nails to her coffin in an attempt to be a good wife and mend the problems between her beloved husband and his friend. Iago continues to pray on her kindness and innocence. She is so blind to her fate that it is difficult to harbor anything but pleasant feelings for her character. She is respected and loved by all of the characters in the play. Iago even admires her and defends her to her husband although maliciously. Emilia continues throughout the play to tell Othello that she is true to him and would never stray
As Othello becomes increasingly bitter in his dealings with her and she seems to love him more and more despite his shortcomings. She makes excuses for his poor temper. Desdemona is a loyal spouse admiring and faithful who will do absolutely anything for her husband. Even when he is falsely accusing her of adultery and sin, Desdemona defends Othello. She tells Emilia that "some unhatched practice in Cyprus" has "puddled his clear spirit. Desdemona does not blame him; she tries to understand what has upset him. She is an unselfish and loving victim who defends her husband to the very end of her life.
The tragedy unfolds and her life is cut unbearably short. The end is upon her when Othello observes Cassio with the handkerchief, and all of the suspicions of the noble Moor are confirmed. At this turning point, the cursed handkerchief has little to do with love; he sees it as the tangible manifestation of her tainted honor. . No matter what anybody tells him Othello is threatened by her sexuality in such a way that he refuses to believe anybody. It is as if the handkerchief awakens a fatal attraction. If he cannot have her to himself then she must die. He also refuses to listen to reason. Iago just continues to poison his mind and he readily accepts this.
Desdemona serves the function of a weapon for Iago. It is through Desdemona that Iago will get to the Moor and gain status for himself. He begins building this status by tormenting Brabantio with the news of Desdemona's disappearance. He then continues by using her love for her husband against him. She her friendship for Cassio as a primary dagger in her downfall. It is her sensitivity to her husband and his feeling of loss over the problems between himself and Cassio that bring her to defend him. She ultimately believes that by bringing them back together her husband will be more at peace.
However, Iago is sure to be the devil's advocate if occasion shall arise. Desdemona just happens to be there to give him the leverage he needs. She plays right into his hands by defending Cassio. Again she works as a tool to Othello's demise by losing the handkerchief. Emilia here also loads the gun of deception by handing her mistress's handkerchief to her husband.
Desdemona is apparently unaware that she is destroying her husband by being herself. Her actions coupled with Iago's twisted desire for power bring Othello to his knees. He adopts a feeling that he must save her from herself and destroy her. By destroying her, he can restore her purity. However, even when Othello kills her in a jealous rage, Desdemona does not want her husband to be responsible for her death. She claims that "nobody, I myself" committed this tragic deed. Her character holds her purity and her love for Othello until the very end of the play.
Desdemona is the purity, the light and the truth throughout the play. Her tragedy is completely unwarranted and completely brought about by the evil that lies within the demon mind of Iago. Iago plays Desdemona ,our tragic character, lie an instrument of destruction and it brings about her untimely demise and his as well. In the end we see that Othello is redeemed through his love for her when he realizes his grave error and his belief in his wife is restored.
The character of Desdemona, in William Shakespeare s, Othello is presented to us as a beautiful, honest, and faithful woman, who never truly reveals herself to her husband. Although Desdemona loves Othello with all of her heart, she has a hard time opening and communicating with Othello. She is not the only one at fault; Othello struggles in the same way. Although I think she never earned the corrupt treatment from Othello, she allows him to walk all over her, which in the end will make her to be the strongest and most heroic person of the play.
In the beginning of the play, Desdemona reveals to her father that she has secretly married Othello, a Moor who is an honored Venetian general. Othello stands to Brabantio as he dismisses him of his position as a general. Desdemona exposes her true love for Othello and Brabantio gives his duties back and sends him to Cyprus. Desdemona s father is very angry about this marriage and even more so because she wants to accompany him to Cyprus. Through this anger, I see that Desdemona is considered her father s possession. He says nothing more to Desdemona, but you can feel that there is anger towards Othello and Desdemona. Desdemona s father confronts her and expresses that she has betrayed him and never accepts what Desdemona has brought about herself.
Desdemona seems to be frightful of her father because of the action that she hides her own marriage to Othello. This makes her father furious because she did not ask his permission to marry, she never denies that she is in love with him. This shows great character and loyalty that Desdemona has towards Brabantio. Even though it is too late for him to approve their marriage,
Desdemona shows her independence by standing firm with her decision of marring Othello. Desdemona says to her father, That I did love the Moor to live with him. My downright violence and scorn of fortunes may trumpet to the world (Othello 1.3.248-50). This proves that she dose not deny that she is in love with Othello.
Desdemona and Othello have terrible time communicating through out this play. It is evident in the way the truth is dealt unwell concerning the handkerchief. Emilia steals the handkerchief and gives it to Iago as he wanted. That which so often you did bid me steal. (3.3.313). Desdemona thinks that she can depend on Emilia for emotional support, but she willingly turns her back on her.
The conflict with the handkerchief, I believe is the explanation that Othello loss all trust for Desdemona. When Othello confronts Desdemona about the handkerchief, Desdemona cannot admit that she lost it. I say that it is not lost. (Othello 126.96.36.199) This very untruthful act causes Othello to doubt Desdemona s love for him. Desdemona knows how much it means to him, so in order to keep from hurting his feelings she tells him she put it away. Othello then imagines that Desdemona gave it to Cassio, and is being unfaithful to him.
Due to this misunderstanding, Othello s trust for Desdemona fades because he feels that this is proof of Desdemona s unfaithfulness to their marriage. Furthermore, Othello is at fault because he knows where the handkerchief is, but is falsely understands how it got to Cassio. Desdemona and Othello s relationship is like one of that of young teenagers. They both are too stubborn to confront each other about the truth of the handkerchief. Therefore, in the end costs them their lives. Ironically, even in the end Desdemona never blames Othello for his actions towards her.
Eventually the primary function of the handkerchief is seen to be the control ingredient over Desdemona and Emilia. Othello repeatedly told Desdemona how important the handkerchief was to him, which put pressure on her to keep track of it. Othello was basing her love for him on the handkerchief. Othello thought that if Desdemona misplaced it that she did not love him, as you can see, that was not the case at all. In Emilia s situation with Iago, he would purposely ignore her until she stole the handkerchief. It was Emilia reaching out towards her husband for affection. In addition, she knew that if she stole the handkerchief like he said to do, she would have the affection she was looking for.
Throughout this play, Desdemona never really learns how to defend for what she believes is the truth. Desdemona never understood why her husband would be so cruel to strike her face and order her to leave. She claims that he must have a good logical explanation, or he would not have touched her. In the second half of the play she is sometimes criticized as too passive (Intro.43). Desdemona proves that she is passive, by not getting angry with him. Instead, she feels like it s her fault and never blames Othello for any of his actions. Lodovico cannot believe that he would do anything to hurt Desdemona. Lodovico shouts, What strike his wife! (Othello 4.1.272). Othello is not such a man who could do this terrible act, especially on is wife. By striking Desdemona, it proves that he is gone insane in letting Iago mess with his mind to think that she is being unfaithful.
The misinterpreting that Othello receives from Iago causes him to refuse Desdemona. Iago is a very intelligent man who takes shots at other s weaknesses. Iago is aware of Othello s volurablity and attacks his weaknesses to transmute on Desdemona. She speaks once when
Othello calls her a whore, but then allows Othello to control her and she lets his anger turn against her. Desdemona is puzzled at the fact that he could call her a whore. She turns to Iago for advice, but fails to realize that he is the cause for Othello s behavior. Emilia has a feeling that someone is interfering with Othello s thoughts, but is too weak to point it out to Desdemona.
Now that Iago had submerged into Othello s thoughts, he has no control over what he truly feels about Desdemona. Iago is throwing him lies and consequently with Othello s gullible mind, he forgets that Desdemona is loyal and pure. He fails to see her as her wholesome self. Iago has put visual pictures into Othello s head of Desdemona and Cassio together sexually. He is none like Othello, he sees women, as sex objects while Othello, has a point of view of a genuine man.
Granted, Desdemona is not a cunning whore of Venice, it must be recognized that she does have sexual and intellectual desire. Othello says of Desdemona, She gave me for my pains a world of sighs, she swore in faith twas strange, twas passing strange, Twas pitiful, twas wondrous pitiful; She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished That heaven had made her
such a man. She thanked me and bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story and that would woo her. (Othello1.3.160-66)
Desdemona gives Othello the key to her affections by letting him know how to win her heart. This indicates that Desdemona is available to Othello in such ways, but does not prove that Desdemona is a whore. In addition, Desdemona is able to continue display is her intellectual ability to speak her mind in public. Her ability to address these matters of prestigious
men as an equal reinforces the power and danger of her role in society. This is the essential factor Desdemona as the strongest and most heroic person of the play.
In the ending scenes of the play Othello and Desdemona are in the bedroom together and are discussing why Othello is unable to trust her. Desdemona cannot defend herself in a way to see that she is faithful. She is belittled to the point of confusion concerning her own feelings. They are bewildered because they have not discovered how to inform each other about their feelings Othello s rage with his anger takes control; he turns on her and strangles her until she is barley alive, and eventually dies.
Emilia walks in and asks Desdemona who could do such this retched action. Desdemona says to Emilia, Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord-O, farewell! (Othello 5.2.122-23)