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Explore the presentation of Desdemona in Othello

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Jacqueline Brown - 12 Jerome Explore the presentation of Desdemona in Othello Othello is one of Shakespeare's four greatest tragedies, exploring the timeless themes of love, greed and jealousy by questioning how far a man is willing to go to obtain his selfish desires. Othello is a highly esteemed Moor general in the service of Venice who falls in love with and marries, against society's expectations, a young and beautiful Venetian woman Desdemona. Throughout the play the couples love and devotion are tested when Iago, a so called 'honest' friend begins accusing the faithful Desdemona of having an affair with Othello's trusted Lieutenant. Through manipulation and misinterpretation Iago accomplishes his revenge culminating in the tragic and untimely murder of Desdemona. Throughout history many audiences have had different reactions towards Shakespeare's construct. Some see Desdemona as the stereotypical weak and submissive Jacobean wife who allows her husband and males in general, to manipulate and control her as they wish. Others see her as a brave and forthright woman ahead of her time in her free thinking and bawdy jesting. When during Act two scene one Desdemona is awaiting the arrival of Othello in Cyprus we see her wit and openly trusting character 'O heavy ignorance! Thou paisest the worst the best. ...read more.


Thieves, thieves!' and also when Brabantio shouts at Othello 'O thou foul thief! Where hast thou stowed my daughter?' This demonstrates the way in which in the Jacobean era women were seen as property throughout their lives; their father's before they were married and their husbands after. When we look at these quotations at word level we can immediately see the connotations of possession in the verbs such as 'stowed'. Shakespeare does this purposely so the audience will subconsciously think of treasure and possessions. However it is not just her father who views Desdemona as a piece of property. When Desdemona arrives in Cyprus Cassio idealises her to the men 'The riches of the ship is come on shore!' Although he is alluding to Desdemona's beauty we can still see the undertones of a male dominated society where women were just possessions to be thrown around in any way deemed useful. Throughout Othello many allusions are made to the innocence and purity of Desdemona. In the beginning of the play where Iago tells Brabantio of Desdemona's elopement he uses phrases such as 'white ewe'. Through the use of the colour white the audience immediately links Desdemona to that which we associate that colour, goodness, purity and innocence. In Iago's conversation with Brabantio we are also shown the juxtaposition of Desdemona and Othello who is referred to as a 'black ram.' ...read more.


We see the difference in the two women most clearly in their conversation about adultery in Act four scene three. 'In troth, I think I should, and undo't when I had done it.' Desdemona's obvious shock at Emilia's open confession that she would commit the crime of adultery clearly depicts her innocence and her absolute devotion to Othello in the way she could never imagine how anyone would want to commit adultery therefore connoting Shakespeare's juxtaposition of the two characters. In conclusion Shakespeare's Desdemona id a complicated character who throughout the play is used ashamedly by those who are supposed to love her. Through her innocence and devotion to Othello and refusing to see the evil in the world o r those around her Desdemona does in a way bring about her death. However does that make her in any way to blame? To me no, Desdemona is bullied cruelly throughout her short life by those men she held in highest regard. First by her father in his possessiveness and eventual rejection of her love, later by Iago, a man she perceives to be her friend, in his sickening plot for revenge and finally and most disgustingly by her own husband who refuses to believe her pleas of innocence and silences her forever in death. To me Shakespeare's Desdemona is a victim of her inability to see the evil and possessive side of humanity. ...read more.

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