It can be justified that the murder of Desdemona was her own fault, but there were also some other aspects like circumstances, vengeful malice of Iago, fate, free nature of Desdemona, lack of intermingling love between couple, Desdemona’s ambivalence tongue in depicting the character of Cassio, and Othello’s limited experience and inability in other spheres of life.
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Circumstances are the key cause of Desdemona’s murder. Othello had spent half of his life in military expeditions and had no space for woman and love in his life. “And have not those soft parts of the conversation, that chamberers have; or for I am declined” (Act-3, scene-3). It was not less than an accident that he was in love with a woman of fortune and beauty. But after this, he had to face the Venetian traditions and naturalness of their ideas. Desdemona was a beautiful and pious woman, but Othello was a black moor. Instead of any discrimination, they were in love with each other. The poor Othello was not able to understand why such a beautiful woman would love him? This thing suspected in the mind of Othello and led him to the tragic and dangerous plan of Iago. This marriage was aberrant and unsuitable according to Brabantio. He sowed the first rustic seed of jealousy, later which was nourished spontaneously by an improviser, honest Iago. Bra: look to her. Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: she has deceived her father, and may thee. (ACT-1, scene 3) And by referring “eyes” of Othello, Brabantio mocked his behavior towards social senses. These last words of Brabantio proved parting-kick for the new couple.
“love’s intimate separateness, I shall argue, is destroyed not only by Iago’s personal malignity but by omnipresent Venetian ideas of naturalness” HOLLINDALE, PETER. “Othello and Desdemona.” Critical Survey1, no. 1 (1989): 43-52
Desdemona’s first fault was to go against the naturalness in thinking and practice. She had chosen a black man while living in white prominence society, although Othello was in noble rank still the minds of natives were not as smooth. “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” (Act-1, Scene-1). This was the basic element which paved the first step towards her tragic death.
Iago was in a state to take his vengeance from Othello and wanted to destroy him. For the sake of mercenary benefits and personal vengeance, so he maneuvered against him and tried every edge, in this malicious web Desdemona was captured.
Lack of marital relationship between the couple can be another reason for Othello’s mind betrayal and Desdemona’s death. In Act 4 scene 2, Desdemona wanted to prove her honesty by sexual intercourse. It can be easily guessed by her certain lines that she wanted to show herself a virgin. As she conversed with Emilia.
“Lay on my bed my wedding sheets-remember” Act 4 scene 2.
“DES: We must not now displease him.
Emil: I would you had never seen him”. Act 4 scene 3
“Des: kill me to-morrow; let me live to-night”. Act 5 scene 2
The words she spoke for Cassio, and uneasiness, urgency and hastiness about the reconciliation of Othello with Cassio also fueled to fire. “I prithee name the time, but let it not exceed three days”(Act-3, scene-3 L.62-63). As Othello was not expert in social behaviors, it was very hard to take these words positively after hearing ill and jealousy from a person whom he ranked as an honest Iago.
Desdemona’s ambivalence words.
“Des: a most unhappy one. I would do much
T’ atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio’’ Act 4 scene 3
Desdemona loved a soldier’s mind which was suitable for wars and expeditions out there. she considered him, after seeing one aspect of his mind, a loveable character. Even aspect of chivalry was also questionable because Othello did not make a good decision of choosing a lieutenant, he appointed a joiner soldier where he had to appoint a senior. But Desdemona was unable to scrutinize it. “Probably Desdemona never really understood Othello, nor he her” (Draper, The “Othello” of Shakespeare’s Audience, p 72. She made a wrong claim of seeing Othello’s mind. ‘I saw Othello’s visage in his mind-1, S-3 Perhaps instead of loving his adventures, she might have analyzed his nature towards social dealings. This was the main element which led to the dreadful consequences.
Although Desdemona was a bold character simultaneously, she was also careless, frail, delicate, and brittle. Othello gave her a handkerchief as a gift, but she dropped it somewhere. And after this what she did, was not more than repentance. She asked about it from Emilia. From here it is not difficult to trace her fragility. It is clear in the play how did she lose it? She herself knotted it on the head of her husband. DES: Let me bind it hard, within this hour it will be well. [He puts the handkerchief from him and drops it]. Otha: your napkin is too little (act-3, scene-3). And another thing comes in the front that both Othello and Desdemona were naivete even they forget this event which led them both to the verge of destruction. When Othello asked about napkin, she could urge this incident but instead of doing so she just wanted to prove her loyalty by feminine arguments [Othello: why, what art thou? Your wife, my lord; your true and loyal wife.] (Act-4 Scene-2) which were considered diabolic wiles in the very Venetian society which was presented to Othello by Iago because he himself know but little about society.
Another concrete reason for her tragic death is that she was too idle sometimes showed incapacity to resist and her artless perseverance in her suit. She strained to maintain her self-respect till the end of play. She could easily trust anybody. Therefore, it was easy for Iago to interknit a malicious device against her. She did not say a word when Othello labelled her as a “whore” and “impudent strumpet”
Des: by heaven, you do me wrong.
Otha: are not you a strumpet? (act 4 scene 2)
Instead of defending herself she just shed tears. She trusted Emilia who proved herself a snake against her feeder. Although she had known about the importance of handkerchief for Desdemona, she stole it and hand it over to Iago without knowing what he had to do with that piece of cloth. And she did not tell her patriot that somebody was alluring her for stealing it.
It is highly against the nature of human beings to go against the norms and having a different mental approach from the society they live in, but she did it by smooth love. Being a daughter of the noble ranked person in hocus pocus Venetian society. She was faithful and always tried to win the high favours of his lord without thinking anything and the same expected from Othello. She thought that her love was enough to live out a prosperous life. And perhaps it was her unwrinkled love which led her to a tragic death. It was also expected from her that she would have knowledge about men’s mental approach of her society. By doing so she could refrain from intercession and recommendation of Cassio to her husband, Othello. That is the major defect in her character that really brings the tragedy.
Another reason for her murder can be compiled in following way. She has the habit of fibbing. Being sneaky by nature, she frequently eluded the truth. For example, when she was waiting for Othello’s arrival at Cyprus, she says that she was not cheerful, but she was masquerading her real self by pretending to be what she was not.
“I am not merry, but I do beguile
The thing I am, by seeming otherwise.” (act-2 scene-1)
Due to her cunningness, Othello was perplexed and so much frustrated about his beloved. When Iago accused Desdemona that she had given the handkerchief to Cassio, then Othello doubted upon his beloved’s fidelity and loyalty. On the other side, due to her naivety, Desdemona did not know about the accusation and conspiracy against her. Her father believed her to be a “maiden never bold” (Act-1). But on the other side, she was carrying on love knavery with a man of another race and color in which she was “half the wooer”. She masqueraded her sentiments from her father (Brabantio). In the case of the handkerchief, she used the same habit of fibbing. In excitement, she had dropped the handkerchief, and nothing came to her mind about this fact. She is at no pains to recollect it and found it an easier way to make a lame excuse than discovering the true apprehension. When Othello asked for it, she again took the support of lie and said not to worry about, it would be somewhere in the room and let’s talked about the Cassio’s matter. If at this cynical moment, Desdemona had divulged the truth, the tragedy would have been shunted and Iago’s brewage could be nipped in the bud. Even on her deathbed, she tells Emilia that she has killed herself. She has brought up in the lap of luxury and swayed by her feelings rather than by her reason.
Desdemona is innocent and gullible in character because she is captivated by Othello when she listens to his adventure tales and near-death experiences. Innocence and gullibility are not a fault, but it is true that: -“too sweet like honey and people will swallow you” That is the reason that everyone plays with her and abuses her innocent behavior. We can consider Desdemona as prey rather than a character whose behavior shows that she contributes to the events that led her to death. Bonnard’s remarks that Shakespeare “wanted to convey to his audience the, feeling that her terrible fate was not totally undeserved.” (63; Bonnard, p.178)
She is gullible in the sense that her maid steals her handkerchief, but she remains unaware. When Othello dismisses Cassio from his post. Cassio impeaches Desdemona to recommend Othello for his reinstatement. She is so innocent that she does not think about it. She is by no means a terrified tiny teenager, but a strong-minded earnest, vital, though somewhat inexpert, woman. As she directly talks to Othello for his reinstatement. And he comes to meet her secretly and is seen by Othello, whom he faces displeasure and in past was dismissed from his post. Here, Othello’s attention to suspicion is attracted by Iago with a suffocated yell. “Ha! I like not that” (Act-III. Scene-3 iii. 35) and after this exclamation, he rapidly utters a sentence which bears a couple of heavy words “guilty-like”. And the situation becomes worse when Desdemona obliges her husband for the reassurance of Cassio’s place on his previous rank. In consequences, suspicion in the mind of Othello makes its roots deeper. Iago proves this scene a key edge for his success and downfall of his opposition Desdemona, Cassio and Othello. So, it is the fault of Desdemona that she let herself be killed. Because she thinks that she does everything perfectly. Her gullibility paves the way of her death.
Iago is the main cause of death and destruction of Desdemona. He airs the flame in the heart of Othello against Desdemona. The handkerchief is the symbol of love from Othello for Desdemona. Othello gives it on his marriage to her. Iago’s anger in his heart ruined the lives of Desdemona, Cassio Othello and Brabantio. He has the capable mind, but he uses his mind negatively and ruined himself as well as others. If we say that Desdemona herself is responsible for herself due to innocence, then we have also to say that Iago has also hand in the death of Desdemona. She is so innocent that when Othello inquired about the handkerchief she does not even know where it is, and this thing creates doubt in the mind of Othello, but this is the plan of Iago to create disturbance between their married life.
As we know, in every play there used to present some faults in characters. These faults or flaws are called the tragic flaws of that character. Every character used to affect by other characters. In the play (Othello) written by Shakespeare, a character whose name is Desdemona has some tragic flaws and effects of other characters which leads her toward destruction and death.
She had a naive character. She did not know how to think about the consequences of her love marriage with Othello. “A bodiless affinity of two souls…. Love of such ideal kind as that of Desdemona and Othello needs time and occasion to habituate itself to temporal and corporeal domesticity” [7 H. B. Charlton, “Shakespeare’s Othello”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, XXXI (1948)] There was a big difference between Desdemona and Othello in term of class and race. This was not suitable for her to marry with such a person who did not like her ancestors. Desdemona’s father did not like Othello but her revolutionary mind liked him very much. She did not care about the class difference. It was her positive quality, but it became a tragic flaw of her when she married Othello, and after marriage, she could not maintain her conjugal life. We find immaturity in Desdemona when she married Othello for the sake of his heroic career and that he took part in many battles. It means that she married Othello the legend, not with Othello the man. “One error may be earnest of more to come. Desdemona has at this point followed her passion rather than her reason and has been carried away by her love to contract a match which both the world of Venice and the Elizabethan audience would recognize as unnatural She was also sexually obsessed with Othello.” [Ranald, Margaret Loftus. “The Indiscretions of Desdemona.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 2.p-134]. She was confused between love and lust. She considered that it was a well-meaning affection but this advanced and became a tragic flaw of her.
Some critics believe that Desdemona is an innocent character. “Despite the critics’ praise of her innocence, falls through this very innocence”. (Draper, The “Othello” of Shakespeare’s Audience, p. 63). She had some immaturity; therefore, she could not tackle her conjugal life. In simple words, she was not a true practical woman. Anyhow, she had some flaws, but she did not deserve death. On the other hand, Iago and Rodrigo sexually obsessed with Desdemona. They pursued her even that they had found some flaws in her character. Iago and Emilia had a great role in Desdemona death. Iago made the plan in such a way that Desdemona did not recognize his planning.
It can be demonstrated that Emilia and Iago both were responsible for her death. Emilia’s deceptive nature showed her infidelity towards Desdemona. If she had not given the handkerchief to Iago, Iago would not have been able to blame Desdemona. When Emilia committed this mistake of giving the handkerchief to Iago after that he easily trapped Othello in his network. This handkerchief was a symbol of love but later it became tragic for her.
The reasons for Desdemona’s murder are following.
1. Marriage with Moor.
2. Desdemona’s innocence.
3. Desdemona’s elopement.
4. Excessive trust in Othello.
5. Desdemona’s carelessness.
6. lack of understanding.
7. Interference of others in their relationships.
Desdemona’s great fault is the marriage with Moor. She does not know a lot about Othello. “Nevertheless, she takes an unexpected and perhaps unmaidenly interest in Othello’s accounts of his adventures and hardships. She also speaks alone with her father’s visitor She loves him only because of his adventures and travelling experiences” [Draper, “Desdemona, a Compound of Two Cultures”, pp-337-351]. Only because of his stories, she arranges a marriage with him. Othello really knows very little about his young wife, he only knows that he loves her with a helpless, devouring passion. This little acquaintance between them becomes a great cause of Desdemona’s murder which is after all Desdemona’s own choice.
Desdemona’s innocence is also a great reason for her murder. She is so innocent that she cannot feel changes in the behavior of her husband. Instead of thinking about the changes in Othello’s behavior. Iago also utters malevolent words in front of Othello, and Othello becomes suspicious about Desdemona’s loyalty. Desdemona’s excessive trust in Othello is also a great fault of her. She does not even think about misguiding and jealousy of her husband. Even Emilia warns her about the changes in Othello’s behavior. She does not believe in Emilia because she has an excessive trust in Othello. And because of this trust, she does not allow herself to think wrong about Othello till her end of life. Desdemona’s carelessness about handkerchief is also a great reason for her murder. And to Othello it is like a sharing of love, to share a handkerchief. Because Othello describes that a woman who cannot take care of her gift from her husband can also lose her husband. Her carelessness about this gift from her husband becomes a reason for her murder that is her fault at all. The importance of handkerchief can be guessed by Othello’s argument when
To lose, or give’t way, were such perdition
As nothing else could match.
(Othello. Act 3. Sc 4. L- 65,66)
Interference of others is also a great reason for Desdemona’s murder. When Desdemona notices a change in her husband, instead of searching the reasons of this change herself, she asks Iago to discover the reasons for this change. This is just because of her trusty and susceptible nature that she does so. “Des: Good friend, go to him; for, by this light of heaven” (Act-4 scene 2)
Iago consoles her by saying, it is some political matter that is troubling Othello and that it will pass. [Iago: I pray you be content……the business of the state does him offence] (act-4, scene 2). Her close link with Emilia provides Iago full report of Desdemona’s routine that makes for him easy to deploy Othello according to his own will.
To conclude, we can say that it is Desdemona’s fault that she herself forms circumstances of her murder. And because of these reasons, Othello believes in confrontations of Iago against Desdemona and makes diplomacies for her murder.