The Impotent Othello Essay

The Impotent Othello Essay

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The Impotent Othello

Othello is one of the most extraordinary characters in all of Shakespeare's dramas. He enjoyed unheralded success on the battlefield, which gave him the reputation as one of Venice's most able generals. The Moor's military proficiency placed him in a class by himself in the same way his ethnicity distinguished him from his Venetian counterparts. These are two intrinsic and highly identifiable characteristics of Othello. But a much lesser discussed idiosyncrasy of the Moor was his sexual disorder - impotency. As striking as this claim sounds there is much evidence in the drama to support the idea that Othello was impotent in both sexual and social relationships. Othello's sexual impotence stifled the consummation of his marriage to Desdemona as the two never experienced sexual intimacy. His sexual disorder then sparked a social impotence: powerlessness in dealing with his wife and friends. In terms of shaping the final events of the drama, Othello's impotency played an even more vital role than his military might or Moorish heritage.

Throughout Othello, there is much evidence to suggest that Othello and his wife Desdemona never consummated their marriage. Shortly after murdering his wife, the Moor remarked, "cold, cold my girl?/Even in thy Chastity" (V.ii.273-4). The final word Æ chastity - brings what actually transpired in their bedroom into serious question. By referring to Desdemona as chaste is it possible that Othello was divulging that he and his wife never had sexual intercourse? Other passages from the play indicate that this is indeed the case. Upon his arrival at the citadel in Cyprus, Othello invited his wife to their sleeping quarters for the second time with the following utterance:


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... character as his Moorish ancestry.

Works Cited

Butler-Evans, Elliot. "'Haply, for I am Black': Othello and the Semiotics of Race and Otherness." New Essays

by Black Writers. Ed. Mythili Kaul. Washington D.C.: Howard UP, 1997. 139-150.
CEINET. Impotence On-line. Online. Internet. Available: http ://
"Impotent." Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Koch, Carl. Living a Christian Lifestyle. St. Paul: Saint Mary's Press, 1996.
Sedwick, Eve. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Colombia UP, 1985.
United States. Natl. Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Impotence. Online. Internet. 9
July 1998. Available: http://www.

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