1. 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:

Father,

This isn’t easy, I’m torn.

I owe you respect because you gave me life and education.

Both of these things have taught me

That because you have provided, I have no choice but to obey you.

I’m your daughter, but Othello is my husband now

And I owe him the respect my mother owed you.

Just as she preferred you to her own father,

I will do the same and give my obedience

Over to the Moor, who is deserving as my husband.

 

Analysis:

At this moment in the play, Desdemona is questioned about her supposed relations with Othello, and asked by her father where her loyalties lie. Although Desdemona feels torn between her “duty” to her father and her husband, she ultimately professes her loyalty to her husband. She says, “I am hitherto your daughter: but here’s my husband, and so much duty as my mother show’d to you…so much I challenge that I may profess due to the Moor my lord,” (1.3.13-18). Here, we can see that Desdemona is respectful of her father and what he has provided for her, but she has also become pretty independent of his wishes and commands and has begun living her own life, one that involves Othello, one that many don’t support. I think Shakespeare was definitely arguing against the love between Desdemona and Othello from the very beginning because there are so many conflicting factors, especially when considering the time at which Othello and Desdemona would have lived, that would inevitably end their relationship. Some factors include race, social class, socioeconomic background, beliefs and practices, and many more.

  1. Passage:

Desdemona

4.2.175-186

O good Iago,

What shall I do to win my lord again?

Good friend, go to him; for, by this light of heaven,

I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel:

If e’er my will did trespass ‘gainst his love,

Either in discourse of thought or actual deed,

Or that mine eyes, mine ears, or any sense,

Delighted them in any other form;

Or that I do not yet, and ever did.

And ever will–though he do shake me off

To beggarly divorcement–love him dearly,

Comfort forswear me!

 

Paraphrase:

Iago,

What can I do to make my husband love me again?

Please talk to him. I swear

I don’t know why he gave up on me. I speak the truth:

If I ever did anything to destroy his love for me,

Either by thoughts or actions,

Or if it ever seemed to him that I was unfaithful,

In actual deed or only thought,

Or if I don’t love him yet, or never did love him,

Or ever will love him—even though he tries to ignore my love

Like it is a poor attempt at gaining his affection—

Then I hope I have a life of misery!

 

Analysis:

At this point in the play, Desdemona tries to find out from Iago why Othello has been treating her like an unfaithful lover. Emilia, Iago’s wife, tells him that Othello must have been deceived by some villain, the same one who made Iago suspect Emilia of sleeping with Othello. Iago assures Desdemona that Othello is merely upset by some official business, and that she has nothing serious to worry about. When Desdemona says, “Or that I do not yet, and ever did. And ever will–though he do shake me off to beggarly divorcement–love him dearly, comfort forswear me!” it is clear Shakespeare is using foreshadowing to show his rhetorical stance (4.2.83-86). Desdemona says she hopes she lives a life of misery rather than to find out she lived an unfaithful life, or to allow Othello to believe she led an unfaithful life. This is a dark foreshadowing for the end of the play, when Othello still believes in the unfaithfulness of Desdemona and her life ends in misery. Shakespeare never truly had any faith in their love.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Othello Analysis by Annie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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