In this scene of Othello, Desdemona’s father has found out that Desdemona has married Othello. He believes that she must have done so under duress, and that she was forced into this marriage. He begs the Duke to let Desdemona speak. The following quote in act one, scene three lines 208 through 218 is her response:

“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.”  (1.3.208-218)

In this quote, Desdemona says:


I have two duties here

One is to you. You gave me my life and education.

My life and education have both taught me

To respect you. You are my father

I am your daughter, but then there’s my husband.

And as much loyalty as my mother showed you,

Putting you before her father,

I too must show

to Othello my husband.”

She takes a rhetorical stance that she did marry Othello and has a duty to him. She carefully developed this stance to let her father down gently and force him to see her reason. She begins using flattery and addressing him with respect, thanking him in for her life and education and acknowledging her debt to him for them. Then, she uses his own personal experience with his wife, Desdemona’s mother, comparing herself to her mom and Othello to Brabantio.   


In this scene, the Duke is talking to Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, after hearing from Desdemona and Othello how much they love each other. The following quote in act one, scene three, lines 229 through 240, is what he says:


“Let me speak like yourself, and lay a sentence,

Which, as a grise or step, may help these lovers

Into your favour.

When remedies are past, the griefs are ended

By seeing the worst, which late on hopes depended.

To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

Is the next way to draw new mischief on.

What cannot be preserved when fortune takes

Patience her injury a mockery makes.

The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief;

He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.” (1.3.229-240)

In these lines, he says:

“Let me give you advice

Which may help this couple

Come into your good graces

If it’s too late to fix, don’t grieve over it

When seeing the worst, the worst will happen

To mourn a bad thing that has already happened

Ensures that a new bad thing will happen

What can’t be saved because of fate

Wont be changed with patience

A victim of a robbery who smiles takes something from the thief

One who is stuck in grief robs himself”

Here the Duke is trying to convince Brabantio that he is over reacting to his daughter’s marriage and that he should accept that they are in love. He begins by trying to appeal to Brabantio’s reason by saying “Let me speak like yourself..”. He then makes a series of statements about grief, and follows that by using the metaphor of a someone who is robbed. In this metaphor, the victim of the robbery serves as the Brabantio, and the thief is grief. If he were to smile and accept his daughter’s decision, grief would no longer be able to control him. He robs himself of happiness the longer he stays upset. 

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