Free College Essays - The Father/Daughter Conflict in Shakespeare's Othello

Free College Essays - The Father/Daughter Conflict in Shakespeare's Othello

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Othello: The Father/Daughter Conflict

Brabantio, father of Desdemona in William Shakespeare's "Othello," is not happy that his daughter is marrying the title character. This father/daughter conflict impacts the work significantly by foreshadowing the climax, giving antagonist Iago material for his evil plot.

Brabantio is a Venetian Senator with definite ideas on the subject of his daughter. He wants to choose a husband for her who he feels is of her caliber and who can provide her a good life, as well as raise the family's esteem in Venetian society. At that time, this was his right as Desdemona's father. Then, when life expectancy was short, Brabantio would have wanted a son of a rich house who could inherit the family wealth, and was only a couple years older than his daughter, so she would not be widowed or have to return to her father's dependence.

Desdemona acts contrary to these plans by choosing to marry Othello who is a Moor, not a Venetian, which automatically lowers his stature. He is also an army general; he does not have a lot of money, only some prestige. In addition, he is old - he could be Desdemona's father nearly; in fact, he is Brabantio's friend. Army life would keep him (and her) out of Venice, and prevent Brabantio from seeing his daughter, or future grandchildren. Consequently, Brabantio is extremely upset when he learns that they have eloped.

Brabantio's anger at Othello's "thievery" leads him to entreat the Duke and Senate to annul the marriage. It is also true that the scene involving Iago and Roderigo telling Brabantio of his daughter's eloping does much to develop the character of Iago as a meddling weasel early in the book.

The scene in which Othello and Brabantio argue their cases before the Duke is the culmination of the underlying conflict between Desdemona and Brabantio. Desdemona's direct part in the saga is less important than the effects of this conflict on Othello, who emerges an honorable and lawfully wedded man after his appearance before the Senate. However, the dubious nature of the marriage is to cause conflict later in the story, as Brabantio effectively disowns Desdemona and gives fuel to the gossip machine. Several times the fact that Othello stole Desdemona is given as proof that she can be stolen from him.

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This casts a foul shadow over the relationship, "doomed" from the start.

The underlying causes of Brabantio's wrath were not mistaken - Iago successfully exploits them. Roderigo is fed the feeble reasons such as age and ability to satisfy and provide proof that Desdemona can be his. Othello is fed many of these same reasons by Iago to drive a wedge where, at the time of the marriage, the heavens themselves could not drive. It could be said that the conflict between Desdemona and her father Brabantio is the direct cause of the outcome of the play.
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