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Desdemona Essay

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Desdemona from Othello Essay example

1358 Words6 Pages

In Greek, Desdemona means ‘the unfortunate’, perhaps reflecting an ideology that she is not meant to be liked, merely pitied for her misfortune as a tragic victim (commonly defined as someone who dies due to the faults of others). Throughout Othello, Desdemona is presented as pure and innocent – in regards to this, Auden’s comment is unusual as Desdemona is seldom criticised; indeed many critics are complementary, giving her titles such as ‘gentle Desdemona’.

Desdemona is a victim of both Othello’s jealousy (the ‘green-eyed monster’) and Iago’s malevolence. However, as a literary construct, she is unable to prevent herself from falling victim to the hamartia of Othello and his hubris, an essential flaw in the tragic hero according…show more content…

Nowadays, many would consider the death of Desdemona, or even the destruction of love, to be the most tragic element of Othello; however, for a contemporary audience, many would have considered the ruination of Othello and Cassio’s friendship a terrible factor (Bernard Spivack believed it was the most tragic component of the play). An Elizabethan audience may have not experienced catharsis at its fullest potential following her death, and may not have even pitied her. This is reflective of audience’s changing opinions and interpretations, as society and attitudes change whilst the play stays the same. Auden’s comment must therefore be taken into context in relation to the era it was written; during the 1930s and 40s, women were gaining independence. Desdemona’s passivity stands in stark contrast to the women Auden is likely to have known, an important factor to consider when justifying his dislike.

Although Desdemona appears to be the epitome of the purest form of womanhood, the fact that she betrayed her own father cannot be overlooked. Through Desdemona’s betrayal, the juxtaposed theme of black versus white becomes apparent as the audience may have thought badly of her for marrying a ‘lusty Moor’ due to social views of the time. Some may have neither liked no pitied her; in the words of Rymer , she is a ‘woman without sense because she married a blackamoor’, and the

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