How is Desdemona presented in Othello

How is Desdemona presented in Othello


Desdemona in Othello


Female Character Desdemona in Othello

Shakespeare has dipped his pen artistically and vividly to create the most beautiful female character like Desdemona in his play. Here are the qualities of her character that makes her most memorable and beautiful female character in Shakespeare's play, 'Othello'.

* Her innocence and virtue of Desdemona:

On stage Desdemona is often displayed as a woman who lacks maturity and is sort of a child-wife or a second Ophelia. This is because Shakespeare's delineation of her character is often misunderstood. Shakespeare wanted her to be innocent and virtuous but nowhere in the play do we see any sign of her lacking in maturity. Unlike Ophelia, she goes against the will of her father and marries a man who in all probability would have been socially refused as a mismatch for her. When Iago tries to create mischief, her graceful and firm acceptance of her love and marriage gives her father no option but to relent to her marriage to Othello. 

* Does Desdemona lack maturity? 

It is true that at moments she has a child-like innocence, as for instance when she pleads on behalf of Cassio. This instance is bound to prove fatal and when she persists with it, they are calculated to exasperate a much more slow-tempered man than Othello. This is evident also when she reaches out to her tormentor, Iago, in her moments of agony and confusion. Yet there is much more to her than just that. She is aware that she has faulted social conventions by her marriage; the manner in which she pleads her case, both in front of her father and the Senate, displays her courage, her clarity of thought and expression and even her maturity. She is a soldier's wife and thoroughly deserves it. We can not imagine a man ever more besotted in love than Othello addressing Ophelia as "my fair warrior". There are instances in the play Othello when she even stands up to mighty Othello, when she thinks she is right, even when he is in a dangerous mood and few people would dare to face him. 

* Her inner poise:
The scenes that put Desdemona's exquisite quality as a woman beyond doubt occur soon after the bothel scene. The bothel scene reduces her into a heap of weeping mass upto the last extremity of bewildered distress. This leaves her almost unconscious. Yet because the action demands it, she manages to wrench out some inner strength so that she can be ready for a formal banquet where she is to entertain men who have seen Othello striking her publicly. The manner in which she conducts herself in their presence shows the sense of decorum that Desdemona has. This decorum and dignity does not betray her even under extreme duress. 

* The sweetest and most pathetic of Shakespearean heroines:
Bradley thinks that Desdemona is the sweetest and the most pathetic of Shakespearean heroines. She is as innocent as Miranda and as loving as Viola, yet her suffering is more profound than Cordelia. Mrs Jameson points out that she shows less quickness of intellect and less tendency of reflection than most of Shakespearean other heroines. Her role is primarily subordinate in the play. She is pathetic figure rather than the heroine of the play. 

* Desdemona's exceptional beauty:

Shakespeare leaves no doubt in our minds that Desdemona is a lady of exceptional beauty. She has all the grace and refinement which a woman born in a rich family and well brought up. This brings to the the Court of Venice a lot of suitors who want to win her hand. 

* Her courage:
We are somehow wrongly given the picture that Desdemona is a woman who does not have courage and strength of will. Brabantio, her father describes her as, 

"A maiden never 
Of spirit so still and quiet, that her motion
Blush'd at itself."

Yet it is obvious that Brabantio is wrong and does not understand his daughter we'll. Those who think that her boldness in front of the Senate is born out of love only speak a partial truth, because throughout the play there is enough evidence that Desdemona is both courageous and has a strength of will. The problem is that her virtue and her loving nature is confused for lack of courage. Shakespeare, moreover, has delineated her as a gentle and passive figure who is ordered around by her husband and mercilessly manipulated by Iago. 

* Desdemona's profound love for Othello:

Her love for Othello is profound and strong. She makes a perfect wife because she is totally obedient and self-effacing. This self-effacement makes her divine both while she is living and in her death. For, at the moment of her death, she takes the blame of her death entirely on herself in order to free her husband from any blame, as she cries out: "Nobody, I myself; farewell! Commend me to my kind Lord; O, farewell!"

* Her terrible misfortune:
Her name literally means unfortunate, and that is precisely what she is. She suffers throughout the play and dies a terrible death. Wilson Knight writes about her: "Desdemona.... is warmly human. There is a certain domestic femininity about her. She is 'a maiden never bold'. We hear that 'the house affairs' drew her often from Othello's narrative. But she asks to hear the whole history. She is typically feminine in her attempt to help Cassio. This is how she describes her suit to Othello. She would bind Othello's head with her handkerchief - that handkerchief which is to become a terrific symbol of Othello's jealousy. The 'Othello' world is eminently domestic and 'Desdemona' is expressly feminine. We hear of her needlework, her fan, gloves, mask. In the exquisite willow-song scene, we see her with her maid, Emilia. There is a willow-song, whilst Emilia unpins Desdemona's dress. The extreme beauty and pathos of this scene are largely dependent on the domesticity of it. Othello is concretely human, especially masculine, courageous and full of valour. Now, Desdemona, also very human, with an individual domestic charm and simplicity, is yet also a symbol of women in general, daring the unknown seas of marriage with the mystery of man. Beyond this, in the far flight of a transcendental interpretation, it is clear that she becomes a symbol of man's ideal, the supreme value of love. 

Note: Features of Desdemona's Character 

Innocence and virtue: Shakespeare has created the character of Desdemona with full of innocence and virtue
Matuarity of Desdemona: Apparently it looks that she lacks the maturity of her mind but she proves that she has enough maturity to be a soldier's wife.
Beauty of Desdemona: Shakespeare has dipped his pen to unfold the exceptional beauty and charm of Desdemona. 
Courage of Desdemona: Desdemona has enough courage to stand by her love before Senate. 
Her love for Othello: She has so deep and profound love for Othello that she does not even blame for her terrible end.

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