‘As lovers, Othello and Desdemona either worship or despise one another. There is no middle ground.’
In the light of this view, discuss how Shakespeare presents Othello and Desdemona’s attitudes towards one another in this extract and elsewhere in the play.
OTHELLO Why, what art thou?
Your wife, my lord; your true and loyal wife.
Come, swear it; damn thyself;
Lest being like one of heaven, the devils themselves
Should fear to seize thee. Therefore be double-damned:
Swear thou art honest.
DESDEMONA Heaven doth truly know it.
Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.
To whom, my lord? With whom? How am I false?
Ah, Desdemon! Away, away, away!
Alas, the heavy day! Why do you weep?
Am I the motive of these tears my lord?
If haply you my father do suspect
An instrument of this your calling back,
Lay not your blame on me. If you have lost
I have lost him too.
OTHELLO Had it pleased heaven
To try me with affliction, had they rained
All kind of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steeped me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes,
I should have found in some place of my soul
A drop of patience. But alas, to make me
A fixèd figure for the time of scorn
To point his slow unmoving finger at!
Yet could I bear that too, well, very well:
But there where I have garnered up my heart,
Where either I must live, or bear no life,
The fountain from the which my current runs,
Or else dries up – to be discarded thence
Or keep it as a cistern for foul toads
To knot and gender in! Turn thy complexion there,
Patience, thou young and rose-lipped cherubin,
Ay, there look grim as hell!
In “Othello” Shakespeare presents Othello and Desdemona’s attitudes towards one another as going from one extreme to another. Othello’s character is seen as loving and caring towards her and then switches to him despising her. Although Shakespeare presents Othello acting in this way, Desdemona consistently loves Othello throughout. The way in which Othello acts towards his wife may be due to his manipulated mind from other characters in the play. It can be argued that Desdemona’s unfailing worship of Othello is what forces her into a passive position and leads to her brutal murder. In this extract taken from later in the play, Othello’s extreme cruelty towards Desdemona as a result of his deep jealousy is presented and also Desdemona’s unrequited love is explored. Their differentiating attitude towards each other may be the cause of their doomed relationship due to Othello letting Iago “poison his ear” about his relationship throughout.
In the extract, Shakespeare presents Desdemona as an extremely loyal wife and shows her worshipping Othello even when he is violently speaking to her. Desdemona states that she is his ‘true and loyal wife’ even though Othello has been manipulated to not believe this. She emphasises her loyalty through the motif of heaven; when commanded by Othello to “swear thou art...