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In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, reluctantly accepts the marriage of his daughter to Othello (who is often called “the Moor”). Once this issue has been decided, talk then turns to Othello’s leadership of the defense of Cyprus from the advancing Turks. After that matter has been discussed, the next issue to be decided is where Desdemona will stay while Othello is in Cyprus. The following exchange then ensues.
Othello. I crave fit disposition for my wife.
Due reference of place and exhibition,
With such accommodation and besort
As levels with her breeding.
Duke of Venice. If you please,
Be't at her father's.
Brabantio. I'll not have it so.
Othello. Nor I.
Desdemona. Nor I; I would not there reside,
To put my father in impatient thoughts
By being in his eye.
Do Desdemona’s words here imply any feelings of regret? The best answer would seem to be “yes and no.” Obviously she regrets having caused her father the pain he has earlier expressed, and she does not want to cause him any further pain by being constantly in his presence so soon after the marriage to which he objects. Although her words quoted above could conceivably be spoken in a tone of anger and resentment toward her father, nothing in Desdemona’s character suggests that she is capable of bitterness and sarcasm. Her main motive seems to be a desire to be with Othello, even while he is away at war. This desire becomes explicit in her ensuing speech:
Desdemona. That I did love the Moor to live with him,
My downright violence and storm of fortunes
May trumpet to the world: my heart's subdued
Even to the very quality of my lord:
I saw Othello's visage in his mind,
And to his honour and his valiant parts
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate.
So that, dear lords, if I be left behind,
A moth of peace, and he go to the war,
The rites for which I love him are bereft me,
And I a heavy interim shall support
By his dear absence. Let me go with him.
Her reference her to her “downright violence and storm of fortunes” may imply some regret at the abrupt way she handled her marriage to Othello, but the rest of this passage suggests no regret at all about having actually married him. Clearly she regrets having pained her father, but she seems to feel no regret whatsoever for taking the Moor as her husband.
Far from expressing any regret about marrying Othello, she once again defends the marriage and explains the nature and quality of her love for her husband. She stresses her admiration of his mind and character, and she does so in front of her father. Although it pains her to have hurt Brabantio, she here reaffirms her steadfast devotion to her husband and her desire to be with him wherever he goes, even if that place involves the potential of great physical danger to herself. After all, if Othello were to fail in defending Cyprus, Desdemona herself might be killed or captured by the Turks. Her desire to go to Cyprus with her husband indicates her willingness to live up to her marriage vows and to abide with him until death departs them.
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