Jake ForresterTeacher Jamie December 12, 2017The Deep Love Between Othello and DesdemonaThroughout the tragedy of Othello betrayal, hate, and most importantly death have an immense impact on characters in the play. When love fails, people have many things to say about who provoked the death and whose fault it was. Love itself did not fail; Othello and Desdemona did actually love each other deeply, there were just many issues that got in between these two souls in the play.
William Shakespeare baffled all of the readers by making a husband kill his wife, even though that husband loved his wife. In the play, Othello says ” ‘Tis not to make me jealous To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well; Where virtue is, there are more virtuous” (197-200). This passage clearly shows that Othello had feelings of love and still does for Desdemona.
How do we know that the love is genuine?Firstly, we have to look into what love was in Shakespearean time and according to Othello and Desdemona’s relationship. Virginia Mason Vaughan in the chapter,”Marital discourse: husbands and wives,” argues that their relationship was already wrongdoing by both parties. She goes on to argue that, “If Desdemona’s outspokenness violates Renaissance marriage ideology, so does Othello’s Behavior. By marrying a younger woman of a different social station” (75). Considering this then you will see that already Othello is facing odds that are not in his favor due to an unordinary marriage.
I argue that Othello is willing to give his love to a marriage that was already looked at as erroneous. This happens again where Othello decides to put his life on the line for Desdemona by letting the people listen to how much he loves her. In the play, this is the part of the scene where Brabantio thinks Desdemona got taken from him by force or magic. Everybody wants to hear what Othello has to say so he begins speaking and says, “I do beseech you, send for the lady to the Sagittary and let her speak of me before her father, if you do find me foul in her report, the trust, the office, I do hold of you not only take away but let your sentence even fall upon my life” (1.2.115-21).
John Gronbeck-Tedesco, the author of “Morality, Ethics and the Failure of Love in Shakespeare’s Othello,” says that Othello will have to rely on the morality and ethics of the people that will judge him. Othello is hands down the bravest character in Act 1 because he puts all of his accomplishments and position as a soldier at risk just to show his love for Desdemona. On the contrast, Desdemona is investing her love in Othello by putting her relationship with her father on the line by talking about her love for Othello in front of many people.
In addition to the love being shown, in the article “Portrait of a Marriage” by David Bevington there seems to be a breakdown of how Othello’s love for Desdemona just is not regular but in the best way possible. Othello courtship in a way that differs from others, “he as active warrior, she as supportive audience” there is also a quote in the book where Othello says “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them” (1.3.169-70).
This gives me the impression that he is saying that Desdemona is “intelligent, innovative, responsible, well educated, and so on” This all matters because many other scholars are trying to blame the death of Desdemona on the fact that he did not love her (224). Bevington also shows an additional point by adding “Othello’s motive for falling in love, as he himself presents it, is one of self-regard. Desdemona makes him feel better about himself.”Bevington suggests Desdemona will become a part of his ego and as the play goes on you see many situations where this arises. Desdemona also looks deep into her heart to declare that her heart is all for Othello, “My heart’s subdued/ Even to the very quality of my lord” (1.
3.10). Desdemona is comparing her love for Othello as great as the love of her lord and savior (225). Also in the play, Desdemona goes on about how much she loves all of Othello as she says:That I did love the Moor to live with himMy downright violence and storm of fortunesMay trumpet to the world. My heart’s subduedEven to the very quality of my lord.I saw Othello’s visage in his mind,And to his honor and his valiant partsDid I my soul and fortunes consecrate.
So that, dear lords, if I be left behind,A moth of peace, and he go to the war,The rites for which I love him are bereft meAnd I a heavy interim shall supportBy his dear absence. Let me go with him. (1.3.
283-294)This passage shows and illustrates Desdemona’s emotions for Othello as she honors his whole body while loving and supporting him. The love Othello and Desdemona had for each other was clearly there, but what caused the tragic murder of Desdemona? There are many outlooks on this question and many scholars have done their fair share of work to determine what the root cause was. Once again, Bevington says that “The potential weakness of Othello’s view of love is that it makes him fatally dependent on Desdemona’s love for him” (225). Being fully dependent on somebody else’s love can cause many issues in a negative way since you are always attached to every minuscule thing they do.
One of the main causes of becoming angry in a relationship of deep love is jealousy. Many will say jealousy is the cause of the tragic ending but that would not be brought up if it was not for Iago. In chapter 29 of Essays in Shakespearean Criticism “Justice and Love in Othello” Winifred M.
T. Nowottny explains that “Shakespeare chooses to make Iago’s success depend upon the fatal interaction between two things: the weakness of testimony as such (which is Iago’s strength), and the strength of love” (461). This is where Iago begins to take over the play and use the love between Othello and Desdemona to ultimately rip them apart. But before we speak on Iago and his role in the tragedy, I will talk about individual problems between both Othello and Desdemona.John Gronbeck-Tedesco marks a great point as he states one of the first Othello flaws, “Morality first; love after. It is Othello’s inability to coordinate morality and love”.
Othello does love Desdemona but there are some points throughout the play were Othello focuses on his morality more than his love for Desdemona which happens a couple of times. (268). Othello being fatally dependent for Desdemona is also a weakness that he has.
Bevington shows a great point in how being fatally dependent can be a weakness, seems as though Othello puts himself in a tough situation: As he puts the case himself, he is happy with himself because she loves him. The corollary, present from the very start of the play, is that if she no longer loves him–then he will no longer love her, and “Chaos is come again.” (3.3.
102) (225)With Othello being that type of man you can clearly see what he is going through as he has trust issues with Desdemona because of how in love he is with her. This allows Iago to take full advantage of his love and use it to flip words and many other tactics to try and take over and sabotage their love. Othello has an odd way of dealing with his uncertain mind, as he questions Desdemona in one scene he says:I think my wife be honest and think she is not;I think that thou art just and think art not.I’ll have some proof.
Her name, that was as freshAs Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black As mine own face. If there be cords, or knives, Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams,I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied! (3.3.439-45)Here we see that Othello is very confused with his thoughts and beliefs of Desdemona.
He is saying that his wife is faithful but then he thinks she is not. He also says that he trusts her some of the times and then not the next. He then questions how pure she is and then saying she is not pure anymore due to the lies he heard from Iago. Finally, he says he will not stand for this anymore, but then he questions himself again by ending with himself asking that he wish he knew the truth.
You can clearly see that Othello is troubled right now with false rumors and fatal love for Desdemona because of how much he is stressing and contemplating everything that is said. Now looking at Desdemona and her role in she clearly looked at as bold and positive character as she obeys Othello and does not lash out at all during the play. But that could potentially be one of her weaknesses as she just lets Othello confused and love-obsessed self, in other words, abuse her. Although she had a great love for Othello at the end of the play it seems like she ultimately becomes passive and sort of blames herself for her death.
Who caused all of this turmoil though throughout the play? In my opinion, it would have to be Iago like I said before. Iago is a character that glorifies and feeds off the jealousy of other characters. He is not a nice guy and uses people’s weakness against them for the worst. But why did he start this? Robert Bechtold Heilman in the book Magic in the Web: Thematic Form: Versions of Love he says that Iago was also a lover too except he could not love who he wanted to love.
He says that “Iago is in his strange way sexually attracted to Desdemona” In the book Othello, Iago is talking about Desdemona and he says “Now I do love her too” (2.1.313) Then a line after that Iago begins to show his jealousy as he says, “Not out of absolute lust (though peradventure/ Istand account for as great a sin)/ But partly led to my diet my revenge,/ For that I do suspect the lusty Moor/ Hath leap’d into my seat.
” (2.1.314-18) You can clearly see that Iago is jealous of Othello as he states “Hath leap’d into my seat”, that means that Othello got to love Desdemona instead of Iago which drives him insane. Iago had a lust for Desdemona that causes him to be sexually attracted to her. Since Iago was looked at as a strategist in love, he could use words and other people’s words to manipulate everybody in the play that was in love. An example of his manipulation tactics can be seen in the beginning of the play where he tries to make Brabantio’s thoughts on his daughter change:Call up her father,Rouse him.
Make after him, poison his delight, Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmenAnd, though he in a fertile climate dwell,Plague him with flies. Though that his joy be joy,Yet throw such changes of vexations on ‘tAs it may lose some color. (1.1.
74-80)As you can see Iago uses his manipulation by using words that poison whoever is listening to it. (200-201) It is sad to see such a great love being broken up because of one jealous and envious individual. Now that we know who was the culprit of the breakup of the deep love that Desdemona and Othello had for each other you can see that there were many factors that played part in the tragedy and the murder of Desdemona. In the end, Othello gets swarmed and gets so convinced by Iago’s lies that he strangles Desdemona and Desdemona being so passive just lets him do it, as she is obeying him.
“Men in rage strike those who wish them best” (2.3.206) that was a line that was said in Othello. This line hits the main idea perfectly because once Iago got involved in Othello’s life things became hectic and the love started to turn into rage.
Since Othello’s best was Desdemona he began to “strike” her to make up for it. Ultimately we discussed the makeup of love in the play, also the individual problems between both Othello and Desdemona. After reading this hopefully, the reader is convinced that Othello and Desdemona did truly love each other.