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Blogging the Bard:Desdemona

by Johnny Butler

All marriages are tested at some point, but Shakespeare’s Othello portrays the tragedy of a young woman’s unwavering love for an older military man that questions her love.  Throughout the play, Desdemona proves she is loving, caring, and loyal to both her husband and friends.  

Othello first mentions Desdemona when talking to Iago about his love for her and how he won her over with love rather than witchcraft or potions.  Desdemona shows her love for Othello when she tells her father, in front of the Duke, that Othello is her husband and she loves him. “I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband”(I.iii.213). Othello expresses how much he loves Desdemona in the beginning of the play “But that I love the gentle Desdemona”(I.ii.28).  Iago believes that Desdemona made a mistake marrying Othello and she will regret her choice the older Othello gets.  Iago and Desdemona do not seem to get along very well when they meet on the boat.  When Othello lands in Cyprus, Desdemona is excited to see him showing her love is still strong “The heavens forbid But that our loves and comforts should increase, Even as our days do grow!”(II.i.210).  Othello and Desdemona show how much they love one another when they see each other after being separated.  Since Iago wants to get revenge on Othello, his plan is to have Desdemona and Cassio fall in love;  this shows he somewhat dislikes Desdemona by trying to ruin her marriage to Othello.  In Act II, Othello still shows his love for Desdemona continues: “And this, and this, the greatest discords be that e’er our hearts shall make.”(II.i.216-217)  He also shows how much he cares for her when Montano is stabbed by Cassio because he does not lose his temper in front of her.  

 Throughout the play, Desdemona also demonstrates she is caring and loyal to her friends and her husband.  After Cassio is stripped of his rank, she promises to beg Othello until he gives Cassio another chance, “If I do vow a friendship, I’ll perform it To the last article: my lord shall never rest”(III.i.23-24).  Cassio is close enough with Desdemona that he uses her to help change Othello’s mind.  Later, Cassio comes to ask Desdemona whether Othello changed his mind, and Desdemona again promises to keep trying.  Desdemona shows once more that she cares about Cassio when she is unhappy he has not gotten his position back: “A most unhappy one: I would do much To atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio.”()  Desdemona also shows she cares for her friend Emilia when she comes to her with advice about Othello, and Emilia helps her out.  Similarly, Desdemona proves she is caring and loyal to Othello when she tends to his needs while he is sick.  By taking care of him, she shows her love for her husband even though he has started to question her honesty due to lies from Iago.  Othello starts to lose his trust when Desdemona lost his handkerchief, and he starts to think that Desdemona does not love him. On the the other hand, Desdemona feels very bad about her mistake and wonders where she could have lost it.  “Then would to God that I had never seen’t!”(III.iv.90) The handkerchief scene shows that Desdemona still deeply cares about Othello even though he does not think that she does.

The turning point in the play is when Iago has gotten Othello to believe that Desdemona has cheated on him with Cassio. This part of the book shows Othello starting to doubt his love for Desdemona.  But Desdemona shows her deep love and loyalty to Othello, trying to get his attention until he slaps her and she starts to wonder why he is so mad.  Othello is enraged when he sees Bianca with the handkerchief, “I would have him nine years a-killing. A fine woman! a fair woman! a sweet woman!”(IV.i.197)  In this quote Othello shows his anger and hate towards Desdemona; he wants to kill her.  Act 5 Scene 2, Desdemona asks for mercy as Othello is talking about killing her. Right before Othello kills her, Desdemona tells him that she has never cheated on him and never loved Cassio, but she has truly loved Othello the entire time.  After Othello hears that his wife did not cheat on him, he kills himself and asks to die with a kiss as he lays by Desdemona, showing that he regrets not loving and trusting her as much as he should have.

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