Othello and Desdemona | William Shakespeare | Critical Analysis

Othello and Desdemona - William Shakespeare

Play “Othello” of William Shakespeare falls in that category, in which the dramatist has highly appreciated and exaggerated romance through two major characters of the play introduced to the audience as Othello and Desdemona. From very beginning of the play, we are in love with their chemistry of love. Desdemona is in love with protagonist of the play, however, Othello has doubts in his mind and heart that how such a beautiful lady can fall in love with him. So, he doubts himself prior to being suspicious about his wife in his mind. Iago remains successful in breaking chemistry of their love because he knows that Othello doubts himself and he always struggles with his mind regarding falling in love of the most beautiful lady of vicinity with a black moor. At the end we realize that Desdemona has not committed any mistake except loving Othello blindly.

In this article we are going to talk about Othello and Desdemona as William Shakespeare has painted the most beautiful love story that would be remembered forever.

Desdemona Analysis

Playwright introduces Desdemona as the most beautiful Venetian lady but she is more loyal to her lover than to her father. It is, therefore, she deceives her father without giving any second thought to her father’s love towards her. She runs away from her home and marries Othello, who is a moor but a brave general due to which Desdemona falls in love with him.

Name Desdemona and its Meaning:

Desdemona is not a new name that William Shakespeare has given to his character. It was introduced by the Greeks but they pronounced it as Disdemona instead of Desdemona. It means ill-fated or unfortunate. Shakespeare has deliberately given name Desdemona to the most innocent character of this play. Apparently, she is the most beautiful lady of her era but her beauty creates hurdles in her love life. Her beauty ultimately kills him as Othello can’t believe that a she can fall in love with him. Ultimately, at the end of play the audience realizes that she is definitely an unfortunate lady from every aspects; so unfortunate that her lover kills her without any reason.

Role of Desdemona in Othello:

First act is just about setting things up for the play. We are specifically talking about Desdemona and Othello in this article, therefore, the scenes that are discussed are those in which at least one of the two must appear. In first Act of Othello, the audience is told that Desdemona runs away with Othello as she does not only like him but love him from the core of her heart and wants to marry him. Desdemona’s father takes the matter before the Duke of Venice but he can’t do anything as Desdemona supports her love for Othello and publicly make it obvious that she wants to lead a life with Othello.

Cassio and Iago are two more important characters of this play, whom introduction is very much necessary to know more about Desdemona. Casio is General’s Lieutenant whereas Iago is his advisor. He is antagonist of the play, who strengthens Othello’s doubt that her wife is cheating him on Casio and plants an apparent deceiving atmosphere while involving his wife, Casio and Desdemona, due to which Othello meets with his tragic ends.

In the whole play, Desdemona tries to save her love for her husband and bear his rough attitude but her efforts cannot save her from ill fate. Even when Othello calls her whore in public, she bears it with patience for the sake of her relationship. In due course, Othello kills Desdemona but after her death, he comes to know through Emilia that Desdemona has never betrayed him instead he was Iago, who has planted the whole story but it is too late for Othello to repent, therefore, he also kills himself after killing Iago.

Desdemona’s Morality in Othello:

William Shakespeare has challenged morality of Desdemona in his play “Othello”. She leaves her father, it means that she betrays him. Subsequently, Othello disrespects her but she never leaves him. Perhaps, Shakespeare wants to show the audience, through his play “Othello” that sometimes too much good attributes can bring death for you. Excess of anything in one’s life is called poison whether it is greed, love or hate. It is the case with Desdemona. Morally, she has been portrayed as a noble lady but too much innocence kills her.

Desdemona is one of those historic figures that have been much discussed and criticized in the history of English literature. Some critics have regarded her as a weak lady, who could not even save herself and remained fail to prove her love towards Othello. Remaining are of the view that she was just ill-fated and she had very less choices to defend herself as well as her love life with Othello as she herself says to Emilia:

“O, who hath done this deed?” Desdemona’s final words are, “Nobody, I myself. Farewell.

Critical Analysis of Desdemona in “Othello”:

William Shakespeare paints Desdemona as a loyal wife and brave lady; brave in the sense that she takes step to spend life with her lover instead of marrying a person of her father’s choice. Her step may be proved wrong yet she is bold enough to follow her heart. She is also brave enough to forgive her husband before her death.

Playwright has not directly shown anything through which the audience can react or form an opinion that Desdemona is a tragic heroine. She seems victim of circumstances as William Shakespeare has given Desdemona very less choices in his play “Othello”. Resultantly, she becomes the most despicable soul introduced in the history of English Literature.

Othello Analysis:

Shakespeare introduces Othello to the audience as a soldier, on whom one can trust in a battlefield. He is an experienced general, who has been serving Venetian Republic for many years. His skin is black and people of locality know him as a Moor, however, his race remains mysterious as the same has not been disclosed in the whole play. Due to his bravery in war, his tactics and strategies in battles, Desdemona falls in love with him. In first Act of the play, Shakespeare has not introduced Othello to the audience but at many occasion Iago and Casio talks about him.

From their discussion, we know many things about Othello. He comes before the audience when Duke calls him on the demand of Desdemona’s father. He accuses Othello that he has misloaded her daughter. Nonetheless, Venetian Government can’t trust anyone until and unless they calls Othello and asks him. It is because Othello is requirement of the Government because of his tactics and bravery which is helpful in wars.

Othello appears and Desdemona supports him while saying that she is in love with him. Desdemona’s father warns Othello that if she can deceive her father then she can cheat her husband too. Othello can’t forget it. Critics express their opinion that from very start of the play when Desdemona’s father tells Othello that his daughter would cheat him too, at that time hesitancy was created in the mind of Othello towards Desdemona.

"Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see.
She hath deceived her father and may thee." (1.3)

Tragic Flaw of Othello:

Othello lacks self confidence regarding his outer beauty. It is true that he knows that he is a great war hero but he cannot forget that he is a moor. He cannot ignore that many people of locality referred to him as “Barbary horse” and “lascivious Moor”. When he sees physical beauty of Desdemona, he can’t believe in his fate. Shakespeare skillfully uses the technique of symbolism while portray Othello as dark skinned character and Desdemona as white skinned. They are not only opposite in physical appearance but their internal personality is also different from each other. Desdemona is full of pure love whereas Othello is full of jealousy. Desdemona never thinks of betraying Othello but Othello thinks that she can. In this way, the dramatist put many things in juxtaposition in front of his audience to judge and realize.

It is astonishing for the audience that Othello is impressive in wars but he cannot realize that Desdemona’s father has planted seed of jealousy inside him and Iago is watering it. Although he praises his wife’s love for him yet he creates doubt in his heart that she is in love with Cassio. It is also ironic that a general, who is very much successful in battlefield can’t even realize that someone is playing with his life.

Social Insecurity is also his Tragic Flaw:

Besides jealousy, Othello is socially insecure because he is an outsider. Being a great general in battlefield and having tactics can’t make him socially secure. He is the only black person between the white ones. Play “Othello” is not only about jealousy and it is not only a tragedy of a single character; Shakespeare has also shown the difference between races. How a person psychologically feels himself uncertain in the company of his companions is illustrated in this play.

There is no denying that fact that Othello and Desdemona are truly in love with each other, however, a question arises in the mind that whether Othello and Desdemona are married or not? Definitely, Othello and Desdemona are Married as the audience realizes this fact when two men, Iago and Roderigo become upset after knowing that Othello and Desdemona are married.

In this play, fate is not only cruel to Desdemona but also to Othello. It is not Othello’s fault that he is black. It is also not his fault that he is outsider and among those, who are jealous because of his success. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Othello has no fault in the whole play. Unlike Desdemona, he is not victim of circumstances. Desdemona was cursed by her father but Othello was not, hence, it can safely be said that Othello brings his downfall with his own hands. As a result, Othello can definitely be considered a tragic hero.