The character of Desdemona, in William Shakespeare’s, Othello is presented to us as a beautiful, honest, and faithful woman, who never truly reveals herself to her husband. Although Desdemona loves Othello with all of her heart, she has a hard time opening and communicating with Othello. She is not the only one at fault; Othello struggles in the same way. Although I think she never earned the corrupt treatment from Othello, she allows him to walk all over her, which in the end will make her to be the strongest and most heroic person of the play.
In the beginning of the play, Desdemona reveals to her father that she has secretly married Othello, a Moor who is an honored Venetian general. Othello stands to Brabantio as he dismisses him of his position as a general. Desdemona exposes her true love for Othello and Brabantio gives his duties back and sends him to Cyprus. Desdemona’s father is very angry about this marriage and even more so because she wants to accompany him to Cyprus. Through this anger, I see that Desdemona is considered her father’s possession. He says nothing more to Desdemona, but you can feel that there is anger towards Othello and Desdemona. Desdemona’s father confronts her and expresses that she has betrayed him and never accepts what Desdemona has brought about herself.
Desdemona seems to be frightful of her father because of the action that she hides her own marriage to Othello. This makes her father furious because she did not ask his permission to marry, she never denies that she is in love with him. This shows great character and loyalty that Desdemona has towards Brabantio. Even though it is too late for him to approve their marriage,
Desdemona shows her independence by standing firm with her decision of marring Othello. Desdemona says to her father, “That I did love the Moor to live with him. My downright violence and scorn of fortunes may trumpet to the world” (Othello 1.3.248-50). This proves that she dose not deny that she is in love with Othello.
Desdemona and Othello have terrible time communicating through out this play. It is evident in the way the truth is dealt unwell concerning the handkerchief. Emilia steals the handkerchief and gives it to Iago as he wanted. “That which so often you did bid me steal.” (3.3.313). Desdemona thinks that she can depend on Emilia for emotional support, but she willingly turns her back on her.
The conflict with the handkerchief, I believe is the explanation that Othello loss all trust for Desdemona. When Othello confronts Desdemona about the handkerchief, Desdemona cannot admit that she lost it. “I say that it is not lost.” (Othello 18.104.22.168) This very untruthful act causes Othello to doubt Desdemona’s love for him. Desdemona knows how much it means to him, so in order to keep from hurting his feelings she tells him she put it away. Othello then imagines that Desdemona gave it to Cassio, and is being unfaithful to him.
Due to this misunderstanding, Othello’s trust for Desdemona fades because he feels that this is proof of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness to their marriage. Furthermore, Othello is at fault because he knows where the handkerchief is, but is falsely understands how it got to Cassio. Desdemona and Othello’s relationship is like one of that of young teenagers. They both are too stubborn to confront each other about the truth of the handkerchief. Therefore, in the end costs them their lives. Ironically, even in the end Desdemona never blames Othello for his actions towards her.
Eventually the primary function of the handkerchief is seen to be the control ingredient over Desdemona and Emilia. Othello repeatedly told Desdemona how important the handkerchief was to him, which put pressure on her to keep track of it. Othello was basing her love for him on the handkerchief. Othello thought that if Desdemona misplaced it that she did not love him, as you can see, that was not the case at all. In Emilia’s situation with Iago, he would purposely ignore her until she stole the handkerchief. It was Emilia reaching out towards her husband for affection. In addition, she knew that if she stole the handkerchief like he said to do, she would have the affection she was looking for.
Throughout this play, Desdemona never really learns how to defend for what she believes is the truth. Desdemona never understood why her husband would be so cruel to strike her face and order her to leave. She claims that he must have a good logical explanation, or he would not have touched her. “In the second half of the play she is sometimes criticized as too passive” (Intro.43). Desdemona proves that she is passive, by not getting angry with him. Instead, she feels like it’s her fault and never blames Othello for any of his actions. Lodovico cannot believe that he would do anything to hurt Desdemona. Lodovico shouts, “What strike his wife!”(Othello 4.1.272). Othello is not such a man who could do this terrible act, especially on is wife. By striking Desdemona, it proves that he is gone insane in letting Iago mess with his mind to think that she is being unfaithful.
The misinterpreting that Othello receives from Iago causes him to refuse Desdemona. Iago is a very intelligent man who takes shots at other’s weaknesses. Iago is aware of Othello’s volurablity and attacks his weaknesses to transmute on Desdemona. She speaks once when
Othello calls her a whore, but then allows Othello to control her and she lets his anger turn against her. Desdemona is puzzled at the fact that he could call her a whore. She turns to Iago for advice, but fails to realize that he is the cause for Othello’s behavior.Emilia has a feeling that someone is interfering with Othello’s thoughts, but is too weak to point it out to Desdemona.
Now that Iago had submerged into Othello’s thoughts, he has no control over what he truly feels about Desdemona. Iago is throwing him lies and consequently with Othello’s gullible mind, he forgets that Desdemona is loyal and pure. He fails to see her as her wholesome self. Iago has put visual pictures into Othello’s head of Desdemona and Cassio together sexually. He is none like Othello, he sees women, as sex objects while Othello, has a point of view of a genuine man.
Granted, Desdemona is not a “cunning whore of Venice,” it must be recognized that she does have sexual and intellectual desire. Othello says of Desdemona, “She gave me for my pains a world of sighs, she swore in faith ‘twas strange, ‘twas passing strange, ‘Twas pitiful, ‘twas wondrous pitiful; She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished That heaven had made her
such a man. She thanked me and bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story and that would woo her.”(Othello1.3.160-66)
Desdemona gives Othello the key to her affections by letting him know how to win her heart. This indicates that Desdemona is available to Othello in such ways, but does not prove that Desdemona is a whore. In addition, Desdemona is able to continue display is her intellectual ability to speak her mind in public. Her ability to address these matters of prestigious
men as an equal reinforces the power and danger of her role in society. This is the essential factor Desdemona as the strongest and most heroic person of the play.
In the ending scenes of the play Othello and Desdemona are in the bedroom together and are discussing why Othello is unable to trust her. Desdemona cannot defend herself in a way to see that she is faithful. She is belittled to the point of confusion concerning her own feelings. They are bewildered because they have not discovered how to inform each other about their feelings Othello’s rage with his anger takes control; he turns on her and strangles her until she is barley alive, and eventually dies.
Emilia walks in and asks Desdemona who could do such this retched action. Desdemona says to Emilia, “Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord-O, farewell!” (Othello 5.2.122-23)