Close Readings from Othello
Passage one brief plot background:
During this part of the play Desdemona’s father asks her to explain herself for being with the Moor. He believes she is under some witchcraft and asks her to choose between him or her new husband, Othello.
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.
First passage paraphrase:
My heart is split trying to choose between the two of you:
To you, I am grateful for my life and education
Through life and education you have taught me
How to respect you, you are my father
And I am your daughter, but he is my husband,
And I as my mother showed duty to you,
By choosing your duty over her own father,
I must profess the same
For the Moor, my father.
First passage Analysis:
In this part of the play, Desdemona is showing her duty to her husband. She is taking the position to show her father, that this is the man she will choose over anyone. She backs her argument up by stating that her mother also had to defy her own father, to be with Desdemona’s father, Brabantio. Desdemona is not asking for her father’s permission but rather telling him she won’t change her mind and that she loves Othello, more than her duty to her father. Some literary elements she uses are symbolism imagery when she asks her father to think of her mother.
Second Passage Brief background:
Emilia is upset after Othello accuses Desdemona of being a “whore”. Both characters are confused and overwhelmed by the anger present in Othello and they run to Iago for help.
A halter pardon him! and hell gnaw his bones!
Why should he call her whore? who keeps her company?
What place? what time? what form? what likelihood?
The Moor’s abused by some most villainous knave,
Some base notorious knave, some scurvy fellow.
O heaven, that such companions thou’ldst unfold,
And put in every honest hand a whip
To lash the rascals naked through the world
Even from the east to the west!
Second passage Paraphrase:
How dare him!
Why does he call her a whore? Who could she be having sex with?
What place? What time? How? How likely?
The Moor is being hurt by this terrible claim
Some notorious evil man, some diseased man,
O heaven, lying people like that should be discovered,
And place a a whip in every good, honest man’s hand
To whip the unhonest ones.
All around the world.
Passage two Analysis:
In this passage, Emilia is enforcing her belief on behalf of Desdemona. She feels that Othello is in the wrong for assuming such a beloved women like desdemona, is a whore. She obviously feels very strongly about this because you can tell in the passage that she is angered by the things Othello has said to Desdemona. She dislikes the way her lady is being talked about and wants to do all she can to make her feel better. She argues this by using symbolic imagery. She asks questions like “where? Whom? How?” to demonstrate her argument. She wants us to imagine Desdemona cheating on Othello, which is impossible because us as readers know she is faithful. Her stance is very affective and makes you feel bad for Desdemona the offenses she’s being accused of.