Desdemona and Othello

An Analysis of Desdemona and Othello's Relationship

Othello and Desdemona at the Metropolitan Opera
Othello and Desdemona at the Metropolitan Opera. (Getty Images)

At the heart of Shakespeare's Othello is the doomed romance between Desdemona and Othello. This Othello/Desdemona analysis reveals all.

Desdemona Analysis

Too often played as a weak character, Desdemona defies her father:

“But here’s my husband,

And so much duty as my mother showed

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord” (Act 1 Scene 3, Line 184-188).

This demonstrates her strength and her bravery. Her father appears to be a very controlling man but she stands up to him. It is revealed that he has previously warned Roderigo off his daughter: “My daughter is not for thee” (Act 1 Scene 1, Line 99), and she takes control so that he is unable to speak for her.

Desdemona and Othello

In marrying a black man, Desdemona also flies in the face of convention and unapologetically faces criticism for her bold choice.

As Othello explains, it is Desdemona who pursued him after she fell in love with his stories of valour: “These things to hear would Desdemona seriously incline” (Act 1 Scene 3, Line 145). This also shows that she is not a submissive, passive character in that she decided she wanted him and she pursued him.

Desdemona, unlike her husband, is not insecure. Even when called a ‘whore,’ she remains loyal to him and resolves to love him despite his misunderstanding of her.

She is resolute and tenacious in the face of adversity.

On the subject of her relationship with Othello, Desdemona says:

"That I did love the Moor to live with him,​

My downright violence and storm of fortunes

May trumpet to the world: my heart's subdued

Even to the very quality of my lord:

I saw Othello's visage in his mind,

And to his honour and his valiant parts

Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate.

So that, dear lords, if I be left behind,

A moth of peace, and he go to the war,

The rites for which I love him are bereft me,

And I a heavy interim shall support

By his dear absence. Let me go with him."

Desdemona’s Tenacity

Her tenacity partly serves as her downfall; she continues to champion Cassio’s cause even when she knows this may cause problems for her. When she wrongly believes him to be dead, she openly weeps for him as she clearly sets out she has nothing to be ashamed of “I never did Offend you in my life, never loved Cassio” (Act 5 Scene 2, Line 63-64).

Desdemona’s love for Othello is un-waning:

“My love doth so approve him

That even his stubbornness, his checks, his frowns—

Prithee unpin me—have grace and favour in them” (Act 4 Scene 3, Line 18-20).

She bids Othello do the sensible thing and ask Cassio how he obtained the handkerchief, but this is too rational for Othello, who has already ordered his murder. Even as Desdemona faces death, she asks Emilia to commend her to her ‘kind lord.’ She remains in love with him, knowing that he is responsible for her death.

Desdemona is one of the only characters early in the play who stands up to Iago: "O fie upon thee slanderer” (Act 2 Scene 1, Line 116). She is astute and bold.

Othello Analysis

Othello’s ability to impress is identified when he explains to Brabanzio how Desdemona fell in love with him. So impressed was she with his stories of world travel and bravery that it was she, who instigated their relationship.

She, having the choice of many a more suitable match, chooses a man because of his boldness despite his racial difference. It could be argued that she loved him because of his racial difference, if she meant to shock her father.

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Jamieson, Lee. "Desdemona and Othello." ThoughtCo, Jul. 20, 2017, Jamieson, Lee. (2017, July 20). Desdemona and Othello. Retrieved from Jamieson, Lee. "Desdemona and Othello." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 21, 2018).