By Mia Munn
Desdemona is an innocent yet rebellious character of the tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare. She was raised with expectations. She was expected to follow her father’s rules and marry a proper Venetian man. She defied these expectations. The way she left her father for Othello, a black moor, proved that she was dedicated to whatever she believed in or loved. Although Desdemona is brave and defies others’ opinions, she is also often unaware of things that are happening: specifically Othello’s suspicions of her. Desdemona’s naivety and innocence prove her to be a sweetheart to everyone in the play, but also cause her to remain oblivious to the rumors that are spreading about her.
Though much of the storyline is based around Desdemona, we do not see as much of her as I would expect: or at least that’s how it seems. She appears in the play many times, but never manages to redeem herself for what people are accusing her of. She has connections with almost every character in the play; every relationship has a different meaning. She is in love with and married to Othello, who hears rumors of her so-called “affair” with another character, Cassio. Othello starts treating Desdemona horribly, and she doesn’t know what she did to deserve this treatment. She doesn’t think Othello would believe that she would cheat on him, because she thinks it is completely unheard of for a woman to have an affair with another man. Her naivety in this situation will eventually lead to her downfall. Her relationship with Cassio is simply a friendship, and she wants to do everything she can to help him get his reputation back. Brabantio is Desdemona’s father, and we only see them together at the beginning of the play when Desdemona breaks to him the news that she is choosing Othello over him. He doesn’t want to see her anymore, and from what we know they never speak to each other again. The thought might come to mind, “Why wouldn’t Brabantio support his daughter in her decision if she is truly in love?” He probably would have been on her side, had she fallen in love with a rich, white Venetian man. However, considering the social status and reputation of Othello, Brabantio chooses to not take part in their relationship and shun them away. Desdemona also grows a relationship with Emilia, another female figure in the play who is unhappily married to Iago. She confides in Emilia and is able to spill to her all of her problems with Othello. Emilia gives her advice and lets her in on personal experience with her own husband. Desdemona only wants the best for herself and for her peers, and, with her obliviousness, will not argue with Othello or question him no matter how horribly he treats her. She stays this way until he goes as far as to kill her, and that is when she tries to persuade him that she is still the same girl and she has not done anything wrong; but even then, she still blames herself for the abuse and is unconscious of Iago’s attempt to frame her. “Some bloody passion shakes your very frame./These are portents, but yet I hope, I hope/They do not point on me.” (V.ii.53-55)
I find Desdemona to be a quite simple character, but at the same time is confusing in many of her actions. She simply wants to be with Othello and have a romantic honeymoon with him — yet it confuses me how she is oblivious to what he suspects her of and won’t do anything about it. She believes that no woman would ever treat her husband so horribly, and questions why all of a sudden Othello decides to treat her in such an abusive way. “Dost thou in conscience think — tell me, Emilia — /That there be women do abuse their husband/In such gross kind?” (IV.iii.68-69) She has a fantasy of how she wants to live her life, and remains naive in order to achieve her fantasy.