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Women in Elizabethan England and medieval Italy were little more than domestic servants who were at the whim of their fathers, then husbands. Marriages were arranged and accounts were settled. Women were, as Emilia says, food for men's stomachs. The pre-married Desdemona of Act I seems to realize this...
The Desdemona of Act I is very different from the Desdemona from the rest of the play. The Act I Desdemona elopes with a black man twice her age; she defies her father openly in court. She seems a modern woman: outspoken, marrying on her terms, hardly the girl who willingly submits to her executioner husband in Act V.
Brabantio's parting words to Othello foreshadow her doom: he says, "She has deceived her father, and may thee." Othello rationalizes Brabantio's words while in Venice, but he jealously dwells on them once in Cyprus. He makes the mistake of using the double standard against her, as he sentences her to death. Salman Rusdie, famous author and critic, says that Othello never loved her; instead, she was his trophy wife; his status symbol for making it in the white, civilized society; his Barbie doll; his Oscar statuette. In short, Rushdie says Othello reifies her: treats her like property. A military man who has been so good at killing with his hands for so long does not make a good husband.
In another famous poem, "Speaking of Poetry," John Peale Bishop says the marriage is likewise doomed. He calls Desdemona a grasshopper who married a stallion. He says the marriage is a mismatch and it is inevitable that she will be smothered:
For then, though she may pant again in his black arms (his weight resilient as a Barbary stallion's)
she will be found when the ambassadors of the Venetian state arrive again smothered...
...Desdemona was small and fair,
delicate as a grasshopper
at the tag-end of summer: a Venetian to her noble finger tips.
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