What wife can compare to the ideal wife which the Bard of Avon has painted for us in his tragedy Othello? She is appreciated by everyone except the villain.
Angela Pitt in “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” comments on Desdemona as the ideal wife:
Handbooks of the period explain in some detail what is required of the ideal wife, and Desdemona seems to fulfill even the most conservative expectation. She is beautiful and also humble:
A maiden never bold
Of spirit so still and quiet that her motion
Blushed at herself. (I.iii.)
Her concern for Cassio shows her generosity, for she will intercede for him with Othello. She is wise, and also a ‘true and loving’ wife – ‘the sweetest innocent that e’er did lift up eye’. (44-45)
David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies describes the depth of virtue within this tragic heroine:
We believe her [Desdemona] when she says that she does not even know what it means to be unfaithful; the word “whore” is not in her vocabulary. She is defenseless against the charges brought against her because she does not even comprehend them, cannot believe that anyone would imagine such things. Her love, both erotic and chaste, is of that transcendent wholesomeness common to several late Shakespearean heroines [. . .]. Her “preferring” Othello to her father, like Cordelia’s placing her duty to a husband before that to a father, is not ungrateful but natural and proper. (221)
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,” tel...
... middle of paper ...
...mind behind the murder results in Iago’s murder of her. Gullible Othello, grief-stricken by remorse for the tragic mistake he has made, stabs himself and dies on the bed next to his wife, his sorrow being as deep as his love for Desdemona prior to Iago’s machinations.
Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
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