Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 6 | Words: 1610
Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Desdemona is a beautiful and young woman. She is a debutante from Veneto who is also her father’s apple in the eye. She refuses to meet everyone expectations by rejecting marriage offers from the many wealth handsome Venetian men who have approached her. Desdemona has instead decided to elope with Othello, a black man who is much older than she is. In Venetian society, Othello is considered as a foreigner and an outsider. Desdemona defies not only the societies’ expectation of her, but also that of her father. Her father had expected her to be married to a white man, whom he would choose for her beloved daughter. This was a very courageous move on Desdemona’s part as interracial marriages were unexpected and frowned upon. This act is a mockery to the society as the Venetian society as interracial marriage was strongly disapproved in the sixteenth century (Shakespeare, p6). Their relationship and the reaction it receives from the society speak a lot about society’s attitude towards gender roles and expectations, sex issues, and race.

Desdemona goes through serious changes in character as the play progresses. Desdemona starts as a carefree, adventurous young girl to a timid and submissive woman. Her carefree and adventurous spirit is shown as she defies society by her choice of a marriage partner. Her adventurous spirit is also shown when she pleads to accompany her husband when he is called for military duty as she takes war zones to be a more exciting experience than being left alone at her husband’s home, where there is no action to excite her. The same is also expressed in her interest and excitement about Othello’s past experiences.  According to Othello’s narrations to Desdemona, his life had been adventurous and had always been full of action. These are the stories that attract Desdemona to Othello which she devours with “a greedy ear”.  In the play, she openly confesses and declares her wishes, that “the heavens had made her a man like Othello”.  This statement can however be interpreted to mean that she wished too be married to someone like Othello, or she wishes she had been born a man like Othello. Whatever the interpretation, the statement shows her admiration of Othello.

Desdemona is very open and does not hide how she is sexually attracted to her husband. She is open in expressing her desire for him, this being partly the reason she pleads to accompany him for his military duty in Cyprus.

Despite this openness, she is still naïve on relationships as she inquires the possibility of a woman being unfaithful to her husband. Her naivety is also expressed when she does not seem to see the obvious expression of suspected unfaithfulness by her husband.  Apart from naïve, she can be said to be timid. She retains her loyalty to her husband although he is verbally and physically abusive of her. Othello continuously slaps her even in public and calls her names in front of a crowd. This timid behavior continues even by the end of the play as she blames herself for her own death after the husband strangles her. In her timidity and submissiveness, she takes the blame for her husband’s physical and emotional abuse of herself. She even decides to forgive her husband before she dies. However, her character of naivety maybe intentional and wisely chosen. This is shown as she seems to suspect her the coming of her own death when she asks Emilia to wrap her with her own wedding sheet if she died before her (Emilia). She had been watching her husband’s jealous to grow but in her timidity refuses to act on it but waits for her to be killed.

Desdemona in Othello is a character which is depicted as the daughter of Brabantio, a gentleman who has a social reputation in Venice. Thus this also entails the upper class social classification of Desdemona in the Venetian society. Desdemona falls for Othello who is a general in the Venice army and elopes with him in Cyprus. Othello being from different racial and ethnical background has inferiority issues and when Iago insinuates that Desdemona are having an affair with Cassio he becomes enraged and suspicious. After Othello discredits Cassio from false allegations formed by Iago, and Desdemona attempts to persuade Othello to reinstate Him back, this Othello takes as proof that they are lover and kills Desdemona.  

The roles of Desdemona in the play Othello by Shakespeare is outlaid to be that of a 17th century woman that exceed the sexual morality customs which are required and outlaid for the Venetian women of those era. Her first role which redefines her as a woman is when she leaves her father house and elopes with the Moor, Othello. This she did without her father consent. Through this she is breaking the social regulation imposed on upper class family which concedes that she has to be granted permission by her father to be married. This made Branantio who is a strict adherer of the social cultural regulation bestowed on upper class families in the region of Venice. She chooses her own marriage partner and denies her father the consent of choosing or granting hand of marriage to Othello as I is the custom of the land. This action of independency would later tore away the gender barriers imposed on women in Venetian patriarchal society. however, this was seen to pose a threat to the male authoritarian stand in the society. Desdemona other mutiny includes defying the suitor which are presented to her and marrying a moor whom is of another cultural back ground with her father’s permission. These facets anger many in the Venice community and Brabanito vows to take the life of her daughter because she has disobeyed his wish and brought disgrace to the family.    


Why does Iago succeed in destroying Desdemona?

In the play, ‘Othello’ by Shakespeare, revenge and destruction as a theme comes out clearly from the onset of the play. By our understanding of lago’s motives towards Othello and Cassio in which he plans to ensure that Othello pays for marrying Desdemona and Cassio by being promoted instead of him; he succeeded  but at the end of it no one wins as Desdemona and Emilia are dead and Iago is arrested and probably executed (Shakespeare, 52).

Being a solder and always siding with Othello, Iago turns out to be a trusted advisor to Othello. From on set of the play, Iago complains that Cassio unfairly was promoted instead of him, due to this he plans to make both Cassio and Othello pay for this.

In addition to having Roderigo a friend by his side he uses his deceitful and treacherous character in making the later hold the opinion that after making Othello go, he will win the affection of Desdemona, Othello’s wife only when he supports his plans which he did not decline.

Iago success to destroy Desdemona can be linked to two main factors, luck and his plan coupled with skills and wit all of these fostered by his ruthless motivation propelled by emotions. In act two, he engineered a drunken brawl which led to Cassio being demoted. He then set out to destroy Desdemona.

He first made Othello believe that his wife Desdemona had a love affair with Cassio. Iago did this by manipulating his wife (Emilia) wittily to take a handkerchief given to Desdemona by Othello, once in his possession; he told Othello that he had seen it being possessed by Cassio. To prove things beyond doubt, with great skill, he arranged a conversation between Cassio and Bianca and carefully position Othello so that he thinks Cassio is discussing his wife. Additionally, in Act I, Scene III “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father and may thee.” Warns Brabantino, this statement is used by Iago to remind Othello that his wife’s father said she might betray him.

Full of jealous, Othello ordered Iago to kill Cassio promising to make him a lieutenant. Iago then schemed a fight between his ally Roderigo and Cassio; he took the chance to kill Cassio on the basis that the victim double crossed his friend. All these is due to the fact that he seemed to have positioned everything correctly and painting himself as a very honest and trustworthy, “Touch me not so near. / I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth / than it should do offense to Michael Cassio; Yet I persuade myself to speak the truth / shall nothing wrong him.” Thus everything he said seemed to be thought to be nothing but the truth.

As stated earlier, luck also played a bigger role in ensuring that Iago succeeds in destroying Desdemona. For instance, when he told his wife Emilia to take the handkerchief given to Desdemona given to her by Othello, were it not for the luck of it dropping, this could have proved to be a nightmare laying hands on. Similarly, Luck comes to play especially when Casio is confronted by Bianca in which he used to making Othello believe that was his wife Desdemona. Luck was also in his side because his plans were not discovered at an earlier stage.

Othello kills his wife although she is innocent. This seemed to be his greatest success. But his wife Emilia brought to light all plans by Iago which pushed to his arrest and most probably execution.

His downfall can be attributed to sticking to his plans despite the fact that it was obvious that he was not capable of seeing his own destruction and if he could see, it seemed that he just ignored it “Dull not device by coldness and delay”.

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