The Christian Bible tells us that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18 KJV). For Desdemona in William Shakespeare’s Othello, this is certainly true. Although Desdemona is innocent of the sins of which she is accused, she still bears responsibility for her own downfall. If not for Desdemona’s pride, she could have lived a long and happy life with Othello. From a psychological standpoint, Desdemona is ultimately responsible for her own demise because of her prideful nature.
Although Desdemona is a prideful woman, Othello falls in love with her and loves her jealously. Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian senator, lives in her father’s household. Her father, Brabantio, frequently has visitors to his home, including Othello, a Moor. Othello is the General of the Venetian forces, but he had to climb ranks to achieve that position. From Othello’s viewpoint, Desdemona falls in love with him during one of his visits to her father’s estate and decides to run away with him. Unfortunately, their relationship is quickly endangered, as Iago, one of Othello’s standard-bearers, uses his jealousy of Othello and his misogyny to justify his manipulations of those around him. Iago influences Othello’s lieutenant, Michael Cassio, to drink to excess which results in Cassio’s discharge, and Iago convinces Othello to see the innocent Desdemona as an adulteress. Despite Iago’s manipulations, it is Desdemona’s pride which ultimately leads to her death, because it prevents her from seeing her own actions as suspect and causes Othello to doubt her integrity, which results in her failure to mount a defense against her husband’s changing perception of her.
Although Desdemona is inn...
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...s or Othello’s jealousy. In an analysis of Othello, James Cavell recognizes that fundamentally, Othello has a problem accepting Desdemona’s “otherness” and points out that “we need to ask not so much how Iago gained his power as how Desdemona lost hers” (qtd. in Macaulay 269). Desdemona loses her power because she was too prideful to hold onto it. Desdemona cares too little for how she is perceived by others or for others’ feelings, and makes no effort to defend her position. She has too much confidence in herself to think about how even small actions can affect her standing in the eyes of others. Although her husband is jealous and prideful and Iago manipulates him into hating her, together, these problems only speed up a process which is destined to occur anyway. Othello and Desdemona’s relationship would have failed no matter what because of her destructive pride.
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