Othello and Desdemona: What Went Wrong?

Despite being the brave and dashing general for the Venetian army, Othello is ridden with insecurities and self-doubt, especially when it comes to his relationship with Desdemona.  Although, Othello has reached such high ranks in the Venetian army and is a well-respected authority figure, he is still plagued with judgments based on his ethnicity and his background as a foreigner.  However, Desdemona does not mind, she fell for him and the lovely stories that he told her.  Much to the dismay of her father, who accuses Othello of being a “foul thief” who has used “magic” to steal his daughter away from him (I.ii.64-66).  He continues to insult Othello, claiming that his beautiful daughter would never be with someone so different from her.  Othello brushes these comments off, and truly believes Desdemona does love him, but perhaps the idea that they are too different remains in his head, and that is why Iago is so easily able to convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity in act IV.

            Iago, being the master of manipulation, claims that he saw Desdemona with Cassio, and of course Othello believes him.  But why wouldn’t he believe Iago? Iago is such a good liar.  He even plants evidence (the handkerchief) that connects Cassio to Desdemona, and claims that once while Iago was sharing a bed with Cassio, he did in fact call out her name while dreaming, but not to worry it was only a dream.  This planting of doubt, of course plays with Othello’s insecurities. 

            Everything that Iago says is so ridiculous, but done in just the right way to make Othello worry.  Othello has never had any reason to doubt the love and virtue of Desdemona, but when he confronts her he calls her “that cunning whore of Venice that married with Othello” (IV.ii.93-94).  Othello is so angry and insecure in his marriage with Desdemona that he lashes out at her.  He has made up his mind, it does not matter what she says to him now.  He believes she is an adulteress and has betrayed him.  Yet, Desdemona remains faithful to her husband.  She would not even betray him for the world, “Beshrew me if I would do such wrong for the whole world” (IV.iii.76-77), even when she fears for her life she remains faithful to Othello.          

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2 thoughts on “Othello and Desdemona: What Went Wrong?

  1. hmowen16

    I think that you raise some interesting points here in your post, but I am not totally convinced that Iago is a master manipulator. In the beginning Othello did doubt what Iago was telling him. Othello stood by the fact that his wife loved him, and that she would never betray him. There was a certain point within the play where that point of view shifted. I think that his plan works so easily not only because of Othello’s insecurities, but because other things fall into place that he can use in his plan. If Desdemona did not drop her handkerchief Iago would not have gotten it to use in his plan. If he did not have the trust of Othello, his plan would not have been so successful either, and why exactly is it that Othello trust’s Iago so much? I am not sure, but without that trust Othello would have remained on his wife’s side. I think that Othello’s own mind is more dangerous than Iago’s speech.

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  2. anikakrempl

    This post helped me give words to a thought in my mind: what if Othello’s insecurities concerning Desdemona are justified? Obviously, according to the text, Desdemona was faithful. But what if Othello actually noticed a surface infatuation that would not stand the test of time? She was very quick to fall for him. And what if, by chance (or cunning,) Iago had played on these very fears? I do think that Iago was very aware of Othello’s social standing, and had some idea of the insecurities he would deal with, but I can’t help but wonder if Othello already had a doubt as to Desdemona’s fidelity.

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