Shakespeare's Othello - Othello and the Heroine, Desdemona

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Othello and the Heroine, Desdemona In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello we see a very exceptional woman in the person of Desdemona, wife of the general. She, as Cassio says, is a “paragon” of virtues, unlike the other female characters in the drama. H. S. Wilson in his book of literary criticism, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, discusses Desdemona’s entry into the Moor’s life: But Othello had not known Desdemona long; he had little knowledge of women in any case; his military life had left scant time for cultivating their society or studying them, before he met Desdemona; and there was a bitter modesty in the man, who thought it quite possible that, for all his greatness and his romantic past, a young girl like Desdemona might hold him but a passing fancy. (64) In Act 1 Scene1, Iago persuades the rejected suitor of Desdemona, Roderigo, to accompany him to the home of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, in the middle of the night. Once there the two awaken him with loud shouts about his daughter’s elopement with Othello. In response to Iago’s vulgar descriptions of Desdemona’s involvement with the general, Brabantio arises from bed and, with Roderigo’s help, gathers a search party to go and find Desdemona and bring her home. Once that Brabantio has located Othello, the father presses charges publicly in order to have Desdemona returned: To prison, till fit time Of law and course of direct session Call thee to answer. (1.2) The proceedings which take place before the Duke of Venice cause the father to permanently lose his daughter, mostly due to Desdemona’s own fluent presentation of her point of view in the city council chamber. This results in Brabantio’s virtual disowning of her and not allowing her to live in his house while Othello’s campaign against the Turks in Cyprus is in progress. Thus it would seem that Desdemona has been living her life with a father who is primarily interested in self and less in daughter. Entrusted to the ancient’s care and that of his Emilia, Desdemona arrives at the seaport of Cyprus. Blanche Coles in Shakespeare’s Four Giants interprets the protagonist’s very meaningful four-word greeting to Desdemona which he utters upon disembarking in Cyprus: Othello’s four words, “O, my soul’s joy,” tell us that this beautiful Venetian girl has brought great joy, felicity, bliss to the very depths of his soul.
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