Desdemona as a Victim in the Tragedy of Othello
Desdemona as a victim in The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare William Shakespeare is widely known for his famous plays, sonnets, and other works including the tragedy. In The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, many characters are unjustly victimized. Throughout the play, Othello’s wife, Desdemona, is a victim of many false statements that lead to her ultimate death. In the beginning, Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, believes that Desdemona is a victim under a spell of the Moor Othello.
As the play progresses, Othello, who is overcome with jealousy, falsely accuses Desdemona of having an affair with his lieutenant and best friend, Michael Cassio. After acquiring “proof” that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair, Othello becomes so enraged to the point that he kills Desdemona. In conclusion, it is pretty obvious that Desdemona is unjustly victimized. In the beginning of the play, Brabantio believes that his daughter, Desdemona, is a victim under a spell of the Moor Othello. Because of this Desdemona has betrayed her father and she is said to be dead to him.
Ay, to me. She is abus’d, stol’n from me, and corrupted By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks; For nature so preposterously to err, Being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense, Sans witchcraft could not. (Oth. 1. 3. 59-64) In this quote, Brabantio tells the Senators that Desdemona is dead to him because she married Othello. He is sure that Desdemona is either being tricked or drugged because there is no way she would make the mistake of not only marrying behind his back, but also marrying a black man. Shawn Smith states that from the moment Brabantio learned of his daughter’s marriage, he was not happy with Othello, accusing him of witchcraft. … [Desdemona’s suffering] initially appears in Othello in a formal legal setting when, in the first act, Brabantio initiates a suit against his new son-in-law, accusing him of improperly obtaining the love of Desdemona” (13).
During this suit, Brabantio discovers that Desdemona intended to marry Othello and that she was not under a spell; because of this, he disowns his own daughter. She is considered a victim in this situation not only because her father disowns her, but because she was falsely accused of being under a pell her husband created. As the play progresses, the dishonest Iago tells Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with his best friend, Michael Cassio. At first Othello does not believe Iago, but after acquiring “proof,” he falsely accuses Desdemona of not being faithful. “ . . . She’s gone, I am abus’d, and my relief/ Must be to loathe her” (Oth. 3. 3. 269-270). Because he thinks his wife is cheating on him, Othello believes that his only solution is to hate Desdemona, even though it will tear him apart.
Desdemona is a victim in this scenario because she is being falsely accused of cheating on her husband. She can also be considered a victim because of words that she chooses throughout this act. After Othello fires Cassio from his position as lieutenant for being drunk and disorderly on the job, Desdemona promises that she will make sure Othello forgives and forgets. “He [Othello] now believes that Cassio has despoiled Desdemona, and for that he seeks the cuckold’s vengeance. No longer the doubtful, frustrated falconer, he has become the convinced, determined avenger” (Carson 193).
Othello is one hundred percent convinced that Desdemona is being unfaithful and he makes a rash decision to no longer be a trustworthy, loving husband, but rather a mean and vengeful man. Because she is stubborn with her words and actions, Othello mistakes her to be in love with Cassio. This does not work out for Desdemona in the end. Othello becomes so enraged and jealous at Cassio and Desdemona that he believes the only solution is to have Cassio killed and kill Desdemona himself. After “hearing” Cassio being murdered, he makes his way back to Desdemona’s chamber where he plans to strangle her in her sleep.
Desdemona wakes up and after asking if she has said her prayers, Othello informs her of his plan. “Sweet soul, take heed,/ Take heed of perjury; thou art on thy death-bed” (Oth. 5. 2. 51-52). While he is in the act of killing her, Emilia, Desdemona’s attendant and friend, shows up. He lets her into the room and after she discovers the body of her mistress, she questions Othello as to who has murdered Desdemona. Othello replies, “ . . . ‘Twas I that kill’d her” (Oth. 5. 2. 131). Shawn Smith paints a sad picture with his description of the reactions of playgoers and actors of Desdemona’s death. When Othello murders her, the horrible injustice of the act causes both the characters on the stage and playgoers, such as Henry Jackson, to be moved to pity her unmerited suffering” (7).
Anyone who reads or watches the play will be moved with such an enormous amount of pity that they can’t help but see Desdemona as a victim under her horrifying husband, Othello. Desdemona can clearly be seen as a victim at the end of the play, not only because of all the false accusations made against her, but because of her murder. Throughout the play, Desdemona is a victim in many situations that lead to her ultimate death.
Her father, Brabantio, believes that she is under the spell of Othello and after finding out that she willingly married him, he disowns her. Her own husband is overcome with jealousy made by false accusations and believes that she is cheating on him with his best friend. His jealousy and anger get so out of hand that Othello murders Desdemona in the end, not only because of the rumor, but because of her own words. If Desdemona had not been murdered, she would not be seen as a great victim. Her murder and the events leading up to it show that she is unjustly victimized throughout the entire play.
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