Desdemona – nerves of steel

At a time when women were almost nothing and did as they were told, Desdemona throws tradition in the face of her father. Not only does she run off and get married but she chooses someone her family would not approve of.

She sneaks off in the night and marries Othello. This is extremely bold. If we remember in A Midsummer Night’s Dream Egeus proclaims “I may dispose of her,/ Which shall be either to this gentleman /Or to her death, according to our law” (1.1.42-44). This was a man Hermia was asking to marry; not someone she ran off with. If people of the time considered it legal to murder your daughter because she wouldn’t marry who you wanted, what did the laws say about father’s rights to a daughter who ran away and married an unapproved man. I’d say she risked her life!

When confronted about the marriage she stands her ground comparing her marriage to Othello with her mother’s marriage to Brabanzio. She claims that since she is married she now belongs to Othello “so much I challenge that I may profess / Due to the Moor my lord.” (1.3.188-189). This is a way of rubbing it in his face saying there’s nothing he can do now, I’m married.

She interrupts the “men’s discussion” on where to “accommodate and besort”. Giving her piece of mind and opinion.

She’s quite well spoken here in that she says she won’t move back in with her father without insulting him by blaming him: “to put my father in impatient thoughts/ by being in his eye”(1.3.242-243). She doesn’t want him to be upset by seeing her after she deceived him. Nice way to get what she wants without insulting anyone (any further).

In a mere 28 lines of speaking, Desdemona proves to be witty, intelligent, strong minded and brave. This makes her one of my favorite characters of the semester so far.


5 thoughts on “Desdemona – nerves of steel

  1. Marie

    Ah I love this point!!! I am wondering now if Desdemona is almost in a sense just a brave as Othello in the idea of valour because she risked her life for the passion she felt, just as he has risked his life in military feats. Is Desdemona comparable to the men of war? Is her bravery just as dangerous as those in battle? The idea of merry-war seen in Much Ado seems irrelevant here because there seems to be no difference from war to love or from love to war. Desdemona even asks the Duke and the senate to go with Othello to war and to stay with him and be with him in areas of attack and threat. Desdemona is incredibly well-spoken and she sums up ideas of debate within the eloquence of one sentence. When she gracefully tells her dad she has had a duty to him, but now must give that duty to her husband… just as her mother did for her father. Desdemona is a kick-ass character and I am excited to see her future thoughts throughout this play!

  2. Karen Barba

    I love how many strong women Shakespeare introduces in his plays. We see it in Hermia and Viola and even Beatrice. I look forward to seeing Desdemona roles in the play. However considering this is a tragedy, it might not end so well for her and Othello.

  3. sielittrell

    I’m in the group doing for Much Ado, so when I was finding extra sources, I came across an article about fathers and brides. In that article it basically said that a marriage could be nullified if the father did not approve of it, since a daughter is property of her father until a legally binding contract (marriage) is represented and then the daughter becomes property of her new husband. So now I’m thinking, are they really married? Or could the marriage become undone as the play goes on?

  4. melissav92

    I’ve never read Othello before and I was thinking about this exact thing as I read act I – how Desdemona seems like such a strong, brave, and intellegent female character challenging the authority of men. She reminds me very much of Beatrice, whom I loved, in that she does not fit into the stereotypical controlled female in most of Shakespeare’s works. She is very ballsy and I love her character so far however knowing this is a tragedy, I hope things end well for her.

  5. sabrinabyrne

    I also find it interesting that the women of Shakespeare’s plays are very independent. We mostly get this sense of self empowerment with the main characters of the plays: Viola, Beatrice and now Desdemona. It is cool that Shakespeare depicts female in a way that they probably weren’t allowed to act, especially in the time he is writing.


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