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If I were the director, I would cast an actress who is Othello's physical opposite. She would be blonde, fair, and delicate while he would be tall, strong, and dark. But beneath her gentleness, the actress would also be able to show great strength of character. She obeys her husband, but she is not a doormat. She is the epitome of perfection of a woman of that time: beautiful, graceful, non-confrontational, and unshakable in her love for her husband. Desdemona does not have Ophelia's weakness nor Juliet's immaturity. She is able to defy her father's wishes and elope with Othello. Othello even calls her "my fair warrior." She can hold her own in front of the Senate and address her father's accusations calmly, succinctly, and irrefutably: "I do perceive here a divided duty . . ." With Iago in Act 2, she is able to hold her own against his witty tongue without losing her dignity. When Othello rages at her and hits her, she responds quietly and assertively, "I have not deserved this."
She is as good as Iago is evil. She forgives Othello not out of weakness but out of strength. She dies loving Othello. As she says to Emilia in Act 4: "His unkindness may do much; his unkindness my take my life but ne'er taint my love." Iago is unable to poison Desdemona's unconditional and absolute love for Othello.
The women in this play are quite strong. In fact, it is interesting that only true friendship in the play is between Emilia and Desdemona. My choice of an actress might be a younger version of Nicole Kidman.
The previous poster described Desdemona's incredible loyalty and her unwillingness to even consider infidelity as a possible cause for Othello's rage. Because of this, she cannot begin to figure out what the problem is that is driving him so crazy.
But she also has a very intelligent and witty side, if you look at her exchange with Iago at the opening of Act II, she points out that he is a "slanderer," but also has some tricky lines that demonstrate her intelligence.
I am not merry, but I do beguile
The thing I am by seeming otherwise.
Come, how wouldst thou praise me?
She is the only one to challenge Iago's habit of bagging on all the women in the world. So you'd have to consider finding an actress with a little spirit to help balance out the conservative, old fashioned side of her character.
We know that Desdemona is a character foil of Emilia. Desdemona is very loyal and old-fashioned in her beliefs about infidelity. She can not imagine having an affair. Usually, Desdemona acts submissive, as seen in her placidity in standing up to her husband. Her submission is further shown in her death - she takes responsibility for her own murder, saying "“Nobody, I myself. Farewell. / Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell” (V.ii.133–134) when asked who was responsible for the murder. She believes in the conservative approach that women are beneath their husbands. What type of actor do you think would play this character?
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