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How Desdemona is presented as acharacter and perceived by others in Othello.

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Introduction

How Desdemona is presented as a character and perceived by others in Othello. Desdemona amongst all the treachery and sinister undertones of Iago's character is personified as a loyal, honest and faithful character in contrast. Despite the initial rebellious streak of marrying Othello against her fathers will, this is seen as small and insignificant compared to the extent of Iago's plan in corrupting Othello and Desdemona's relationship. Desdemona is described in the opening scene by Brabantio and Iago when given news of her eloping to marry Othello, 'the moor'. Her absence in this scene gives her the quality of a precious object, taken from Brabantio as if by a thief. 'Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags' By placing her among these possessions of Brabantio, Iago evokes a sense of importance in his news that Brabantio's most precious 'object' has been taken. Desdemona's perception as a young, innocent and beautiful daughter is contrasted against the opinion of Othello as an evil and sinister opportunist. 'Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs' Othello is also described as an 'old black ram' and Desdemona as a 'white ewe'. This language symbolises the purity of Desdemona being corrupted by Othello who is seen as a bad match based on his race, age and position as a soldier. Shakespeare enables us to gain an idea of how Desdemona was thought of before marrying Othello in the first scene; she was clearly the object of affection by her father and had a loyal duty towards him. Others thought she was innocent and good, and couldn't have foreseen her rebellious side. Roderigo comments: 'Your daughter, if you have not given her leave... hath made a gross revolt' This illustrates that she was still under her father's wing and asking permission to marry would have been the normal thing to do. Brabantio is taken aback by her behaviour and his surprise leads him to suspect she was drugged or charmed to have done such a thing. ...read more.

Middle

Iago's plan is only in the making and has not yet spoiled the love between them. 'The heavens forbid But that our love and comforts should increase, Even as our days do grow.' Their relationship is romanticised and the happiness of it is exaggerated by Shakespeare to heighten the sense of tragedy when things start to go wrong. To make something as pure and perfect as Desdemona portrayed as a demure and caring wife be compared to the heartless and bitter Iago presents them as total opposites, and the antithesis of each other. Even Iago recognises this and confesses a feeling of love for Desdemona, yet his deep-seated bitterness of suspecting Othello of sleeping with Emilia is enough to not care about the consequences of his actions. The perception of women in Othello, particularly of Venetian women, is given voice through certain characters during the play. Related to the context of the play set in Venice and the period of history, women were the possessions of their fathers until 'handed over' to their husbands. Women were not seen as the successful and money making men, they had the duty of caring for them and carrying out the domestic chores. Desdemona is aware of her role all along and fulfils it with good behaviour in order to please her husband, and there relationship is bonded with love. Another popular opinion of some women at that time was that they were adulterous and fickle. A man feared being 'cuckolded' because of the reputation it would give him, of having a wife that they could not control. Desdemona does not ever behave like this, but Iago draws on this idea to arouse suspicions in Othello's mind, so due to certain clues he concludes that Desdemona has cheated him and slept with another man. The handkerchief given by Othello to Desdemona is a symbol of his love and gratitude towards her, and was a token that binds their marriage. ...read more.

Conclusion

Desdemona becomes very worried over Othello's dark mood, and assumes it is her fault for losing the handkerchief. During Act 4, many insinuations and implications are suggested at by Iago, and it appears that nothing is said very explicitly. He speaks of Desdemona in relation to Cassio but only hints at this, mentioning the handkerchief as a connection. Iago says that they have slept together, and that her heard Cassio bragging about it as proof. Soon Othello becomes distraught in his own head with feelings of love of Desdemona and jealousy. 'A fine woman, a fair woman, a sweet woman!' 'Ay, let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight, For she shall not live. No my heart is turned to stone; I strike it, and it hurts my hand' Othello speaks as though he must punish Desdemona for what she has done, despite a longing for how he used to think of her, as a fair and sweet woman. Because of Desdemona's loveliness, he is finding it difficult to accept, and Iago encourages the jealous monster in him to give way to these conflicting feelings. Eventually this works and Othello plans to murder her. 'I will chop her into messes. Cuckold me!' Othello now perceives Desdemona as a 'subtle whore' and a 'simple bawd' Emilia recognises that he is wrong to believe this of her and in Desdemona's defence upholds the way she was previously perceived. 'For if she not be honest, chaste, and true. There's no man happy; the purest of their wives Is foul as slander.' Through Othello's language in Act 4 Scene 2, Shakespeare uses language of pollution, discarded waste and hell to describe his feelings. This language reflects the feelings of hate for Desdemona and lead to him eventually murdering Desdemona by suffocation later in the play. Desdemona as a character reveals more to her than popular view of her being a passive women. She proves herself to be passionate and strong in opinion, but recognises her roles as a wife to Othello. ?? ?? ?? ?? Stephanie Welford 1 ...read more.

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