Discuss how love is expressed in Othello.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The idea of love is shown to be the source of one’s greatest feeling of triumph, but also one of humanity’s greatest potential for weakness and failure.  I think that this is best seen in the protagonist, himself.  Whether or not he does can be debated, but Othello believes himself to be in love with Desdemona.  He holds her in position of primacy, to a point where he cherishes her more than anything else.  This is conveyed to the audience.  We might debate as to whether or not he does love her, or whether he is incapable of understanding the complexity of love.  Yet, he believes he loves her and we understand this.   However within this, we are introduced to a very complex issue of love in the drama and, perhaps, in our own lives.  On one hand, we, as the audience, also recognizes that part of the definition of love is to truly believe that the love we share with another is the most precious and tender on the planet.  For this, we worship it and pray at its altar, as Othello does.  Yet, we also witness how brutal this experience of love can be when the constant fear of its disappearance haunts us as a shadow.  Othello is poised between both of these polarities where little good can result.  He loves (at least he thinks he loves Desdemona), yet is enraged and terrified at the idea that his love for her might disappear.  He is torn between love and fear.  Through this, we understand that both of them go together quite unlikely, but nicely.  What it is we love more than anything else in the world causes us terror at the prospect of its departure.  It is here where we see Othello’s struggles and while we may criticize him for what he does, we secretly understand why he would feel that way.  It is through this conveyance that we understand that part of a valid definition of love is to be able to understand our fears, convey them to the other person, and trust that they understand our own crippled state, something that Othello could not bring himself to do as he lacked the vocabulary to do so.

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