Exploring The Character Desdemona In Othello English Literature Essay

Desdemona viewed as a goddess by Cassio and Emilia because of her kind spirit and determination, which stems from her marriage to Othello and Iago tragically, uses Desdemona’s good nature to perceive her as a whore. Possibly Iago is right about Desdemona after all, while other characters accounts of Desdemona as a goddess or a whore are well balanced creating a confusing portrait of her character as described in the cutting of Act III Scene III from William Shakespeare’s Othello.

As a woman, Emilia does not perceive Desdemona as a threat because she has great respect for Desdemona. In a military camp, Desdemona and Emilia have no family or friends and being placed in a surrounding where male conceptions of honor define what women are. Therefore, the women are aware of their surroundings and relate to each other on a level of understanding. Naturally, Emilia looks up to Desdemona as a goddess because she herself is unable to take the steps toward liberation like Desdemona; therefore, she is living the experience through Desdemona. Emilia then comments that Othello and Iago are approaching. When Othello and Iago enters the stage, Cassio pardons himself suddenly and claims that he is not well enough to speak with the general at this time. Iago uses this moment to undermine Othello’s belief in Desdemona’s loyalty; this scene is called the “seductive scene” or the “temptation scene” as he impersonates an honest man, but unwilling witness, and his “Ha! I like not that!” is a deliberate lie, which hides his true nature (3.3.1200). However, because Othello sees nothing wrong with Cassio, Iago pretends he does not want to talk of Cassio’s abrupt departure, insinuating that Cassio and Desdemona have something to hide. Still, could it be that Desdemona is up to something?

When Desdemona promises to help Cassio, her language of strength and sexual power leads the audience to believe that Iago’s suspicions of affection to Cassio are indeed true. For instance, Desdemona will “perform” her friendship with Cassio “to the last article” (3.3.1199). In other terms, she will pester her husband at great lengths to insure that Othello will reconsider his decisions of Cassio’s rank. In addition, when Desdemona greets her husband, Othello, she introduces Cassio’s name into their conversation while referring to him as a “suitor”:

When Othello asks whom she is talking about, Desdemona replies, “Why, your lieutenant, Cassio” (3.3.1200). The politics of the situation mean very little to Desdemona, as she believes that Othello should restore her suitor’s rank because he is the “one that truly loves [him] (3.3.1200). Desdemona then argues that Cassio’s “errs in ignorance and not in cunning”; in other means, he is not a bad person who just made a stupid mistake. Desdemona then expresses her remorse and states that his mistake is “not almost a fault / To incur a private check” (3.3.1200). Since Cassio is an officer of the peace who willfully got drunk and engaged in a bar fight resulting in the injury of a civilian all the while on duty, Othello disagrees with Desdemona’s decision, but does not give a definite answer. Desdemona then exclaims,

The following lines indicate to the audience that Cassio and Desdemona were old friends before she married Othello. Indeed Cassio brought the newlyweds together and possibly him and Desdemona where once lovers as they had known each other for some time. Iago stirs these memories in the mind of Othello to ignite his jealousy, even though there is no proof to confirm Iago’s claims. Iago also urges Othello to recall that Desdemona deceived her own father, Brabantio, by marrying Othello and pretending to be afraid of Othello’s dark looks for her father’s benefit as she pretends to shake and tremble at Othello’s exotic demeanor, yet “she lov’d them [Othello’s features] most” (3.3.1202). Iago’s implication is clear: “If Desdemona deceived her own flesh and blood she might just as naturally deceive her husband. Iago then cleverly pauses and begs for forgiveness by his superior while attributing his own truthfulness to his loyalty for Othello. When the audience hears that the Moor says, “I am bound to thee forever,” the audience suspect that indeed Othello has been permanently trapped in Iago’s web of deceit (3.3.1202).

Desdemona might not be a goddess or whore; however, she is a young wife who stems from her matriarchal tendencies of sympathy. While Desdemona has innocent attentions to reunite a friendship between Othello and Cassio, her eagerness to have her requests granted gives Iago the opportunity to wreak vengeance upon the Moor and at the same time, ruin Desdemona’s maiden name and civilian status.

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