First Passage

 

Desdemona

1.3.208-218

My noble father,

I do perceive here a divided duty:

To you I am bound for life and education;

My life and education both do learn me

How to respect you; you are the lord of duty;

I am hitherto your daughter: but here’s my husband,

And so much duty as my mother show’d

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord.

 

Paraphrase:

My dear father,

I see two duties which I owe equal amounts to here:

One is you, who has given me my life and education

Of which I would not be the same person without

And I respect you for it, you have put me before everything to obtain this

I am your daughter, but I now have a husband,

I must be as good of a wife to my husband as mother was to you

She put you before she put her father,

So I must rebel against your idea and say

My duty is to Othello

 

The background to this passage is that Iago has told Brabantio that Othello has made Desdemona his wife without anyone knowing. Brabantio is furious and doesn’t think that Desdemona could fall in love with Othello naturally. They meet and Desdemona tells her father that she is in love with Othello and regardless of his opinion on the matter, she will remain with Othello.

 

Desdemona tells her father that she will remain with Othello by using personal stories and emotion. She uses these rhetorical strategies by comparing her situation to that of her parents; her mother showed her father more love and respect than her mother’s father and therefore Desdemona will show Othello more love and respect than her father. She also uses compliments towards her father to help her case saying that she owes her life and education to him and without it, she would be lost. By giving her father this praise in the beginning, he is more likely to agree with her further points.

Second Passage:

Othello

5.2.397-406

Soft you; a word or two before you go.

I have done the state some service, and they know’t.

No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,

Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak

Of one that loved not wisely but too well;

Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought

Perplexed in the extreme.

 

Paraphrase:

Let me speak a few words before I die and will not see you again.

I have been a part of the state military for some time now, they know it

Regardless, in your letters to the state

Regarding the terrible misfortune that has happened today

Mention me exactly as I am, do not exaggerate

Do not talk down to me out of anger

Tell them I am one who loved too much, but not wisely

Someone who was not usually jealous, but being manipulated to think I should be

Who was confused over extreme and untrue circumstances

 

The background to this passage is that Othello has just found out that Iago was lying to him the whole time and that he has now killed Desdemona for no reason. Othello is angry and very upset and these are the last words he speaks before he kills himself. He speaks to Iago and the statesmen then lays down with Desdemona and Emilia to die.

Some rhetorical strategies that Shakespeare uses in this passage are emotion and comparison. Shakespeare uses emotion when describing Othello’s disappointment and anger when being manipulated. It makes it so the reader feels more sympathetic to Othello  because he was clueless to what was going on and therefore his actions were not what they should have been. Shakespeare also uses comparison when Othello is saying how he wants to be remembered. He says he wants to be remembered as he was, not exaggerated and not downplayed, as not jealous except when tricked, and loved well, but not intelligently.

 

Photo by Lincolnian (Brian) – BUSY, in and out

CC BY-SA 4.0 Othello Close Read by Chloe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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