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.

 

Paraphrased:

My honorable father,

I have split responsibilities:

I am obligated to you for life and for my education

My life and education have taught me

How to respect you; because you are my leader;

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

And just as mother showed loyalty

To you, obeying you over her own father,

I am now challenged to now show that same obedience

To my husband.

 

In this verse, which is found in act one scene three, Desdemona is talking to the Duke of Venice and Brabantio. She is discussing her desire to treat Othello the same way her mother treated her father. I get the impression that she is conflicted when she says “To you I am bound for life and education” (1.3.210) and follows by saying “but here’s my husband” (1.3.213). These statements show that although Desdemona still feels strongly bound to her father she truly desires to be loyal to Othello. Over the course of this verse, Desdemona develops her rhetorical stance by first establishing her position when she says “I do perceive here a divided duty” (1.3.209), which implies that she feels split responsibilities, and then elaborating on and developing her stance over the course of this verse.

 

 

Othello

2.1.199-209

It gives me wonder great as my content

To see you here before me. O my soul’s joy!

If after every tempest come such calms,

May the winds blow till they have waken’d death!

And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas

Olympus-high and duck again as low

As hell’s from heaven! If it were now to die,

‘Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,

My soul hath her content so absolute

That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.

 

Paraphrased:

I am just as surprised as I am pleased

To see you here with me. I am so happy!

If such peace came after every storm,

Let the winds blow on until the world is at peace!

And let the driftwood continue to roll amongst the waves

As high as heaven only to duck again as low

As hell is from heaven! If I died right now,

I would at least be happy; because, I am afraid,

My soul is so content when I’m with her

That I will not find another passion as satisfying as this

I do not know my fate.

 

In this verse, which is found in act two scene one, Othello is conversing with Desdemona, Cassio, Iago, and Rodrigo in a sea port in Cyprus. Othello is extremely happy to see his friends, particularly Desdemona, which he expresses when he says “I am just as surprised as I am pleased to see you here with me. I am so happy!” (2.1.199-200). Over the course of this verse, Othello develops his rhetorical stance by first establishing his joy in the moment and then continuing to use literary tools such as this metaphor “let the labouring bark climb hills of seas olympus-high and duck again as low as hell’s from heaven!” (2.1.203-205). These literary tools allow Othello to develop his ideas and successfully conclude his verse by saying “My soul hath her content so absolute that not another comfort like to this” (2.1.207-208) which implies that Othello will never be as happy as he is in this moment with Desdemona.

Photo by diannlroy.com

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

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