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Desdemona Character Analysis

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Mikaela Dimaapi

on 28 May 2013

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Transcript of Desdemona Character Analysis

A Doomed Innocence General Overview Desdemona is Othello’s wife.
-more of a housewife (though Emilia is her attendant)
-embodies the Venetian lady/Renaissance wife
-loving, loyal, obedient
-accompanies Othello to events
-loves him out of pity then admiration of his experiences

To Iago, Desdemona serves as the tool catalyzing his plot to destroy Othello’s life and happiness. Because she is a caring friend to Cassio, her goodness is actually what condemns everyone. Behavior and Motivations Desdemona is also the daughter of Venetian senator Brabantio. In eloping with Othello, she breaks her father’s heart by filling him with grief. Desdemona behaves out of strong love for Othello.

“I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband. And so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you over her father, so much I challenge that I may profess due to the Moor my lord” (1, ii, 179-188). In the first act, she expresses how her loyalty has progressed to her husband over her father. Although she loves and respects Brabantio, she now has to honor her duty as a wife and not just a daughter. Desdemona’s behavior is also significantly influenced by her good virtue, especially when she seeks to help Cassio.

“My lord shall never rest: I’ll watch him tame and talk him out of patience; his bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift; I’ll intermingle everything he does with Cassio’s suit” (3, iii, 24-28). Desdemona speaks for Cassio’s good name out of concern, not infatuation as Othello grows to believe. Her motivation is purely innocent, sincere, and with good intention. When she makes the promise to help Cassio, she establishes that she will do everything she can to fulfill that promise. Goals and Purpose Desdemona seeks to restore Cassio’s good reputation and worthiness of his position in Othello’s eyes.

“’I prithee name the time, but let it not exceed three days. […] What? Michael Cassio? That came a wooing with you […] hath ta’en your part – to have so much to do to bring him in!” (3, iii. 70 – 81). She recognizes Cassio’s goodness and wants to restore him to his rightful place as lieutenant. With this rationale, Desdemona insists that Othello does not wait because Cassio is very sorry and his mistake was not even worth punishing him initially. She defends Cassio’s love and loyalty for Othello. However, Desdemona learns that Cassio’s position has become a sensitive topic, so then she wants to win Othello back and even turns to Iago for advice and assurance. “Alas, Iago, What shall I do to win my lord again? […] I know not how I lost him. If e’er my will did trespass ‘gainst his love, either in discourse of thought or actual deed, […] Comfort forswear me! […] And his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love” (4, ii, 174 – 190). Desdemona gradually becomes more inclined to justify her fidelity to Othello. However, once Desdemona finally realizes that proving her innocence and love is a lost cause and will ultimately be unsuccessful, she aims to forgive Othello and assumes responsibility for his anger and her death. Obstacles A major obstacle for Desdemona is actually her virtuous and innocent being. It is almost as if she is unaware of the purity she possesses since her goodness is natural; therefore she is left exposed and vulnerable to more worldly individuals like Othello and Iago. Furthermore, Desdemona proves to have a more spirited side where she struggles to maintain her independence to an extent that will not conflict with all those around her. Personality From the beginning, Desdemona’s goodness and virtue serve as a prelude to her destiny. She is pure almost to a fault because she represents the more ideal and perfect character. She never really gets angry at Othello and lets him rule her. Desdemona’s goodness is twisted so that all characters become entwined in a plot of destruction.While Othello’s anger and jealousy grow, it seems that Desdemona does not make that significant of an effort to stand up for herself. As he further loses his trust for her, she becomes less independent and more centered on convincing him of her fidelity. Fulfillment of Weakness In the end, what remains of Desdemona is a broken spirit that was once lively, strong, and independent. Her virtuous and good being proved to be excessive and damaging to herself and others. Ultimately she submits to all forces against her, mainly Othello’s irrational raging, and finds herself as the one at fault. Her self-accountability is especially prominent during the time approaching her death.

“That song tonight will not go from my mind. I have much to do, but to go hang my head all at one side and sing it like poor Barbary” (4, iii, 32 – 35). After she is smothered, her dying words are a haunting reminder of her weakness as a naturally good and faithful character.

“Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell” (5, ii, 151 – 152). Even though she is falsely killed, she defends her love because she is guiltless. Human Nature & Society Desdemona’s character represents the fragility of goodness and nobility in human nature. Persistent generosity and enduring virtue can very well end up being weaknesses. Despite the strength and sincerity in one’s righteousness and morality, there will always be great forces of evil and corruption acting against the forces of good. Desdemona is too willing to trust in others. She regards Iago as an honest man and believes in his false reassurances. Desdemona is also very forgiving, as seen during her death in which her faith in and love for Othello endure. Society often advocates for righteousness yet people grow cynical because of the predominant fear of evil prevailing over goodness. Society holds each person to an expectation of ideal perfection, as Desdemona’s virtuous characteristics more prominently reflect. However, humans naturally tend to act out of a combination of both virtues and vices. The coexistence of these qualities proves the risk of one overcoming the other. In terms of people taking advantage of others’ good nature… People will trust in others and anticipate this trust to be reciprocated. However, there are cheaters and traitors in the world like con artists. These individuals can be narcissistic and exhibit minimal care for how they affect the feelings of others. They do not own up to the consequences of their actions and their purpose is to deceive and manipulate. Overall... The tragedy in Othello is that many characters such as Desdemona were manipulated, lied to, and subject to the narcissistic ambitions of Iago. “O Spartan dog,
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea,
Look on the tragic loading of this bed.
This is thy work. – The object poisons sight.
Let it be hid.”
(5, ii, 424 – 427) Questions?
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