Swordplay is used in both Othello and Goodnight Desdemona. Discuss how this device is used to different ends in each play.

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The use of swordplay in both works is minimal yet significant for the tone it sets in each play. The genre of a play is often critical to its meaning. In Othello and Goodnight Desdemona, the genres can be seen through the intent of each sword fight scene and how the main characters act.

Swordplay was used often by Shakespeare, yet Othello is one of the only warriors in his plays that is not seen to fight. In fact, when facing an angry Brabantio in act 1, scene 2, Othello urges others to avoid conflict saying:

Keep up your bright words; for the dew will rust them

The scene progresses with Brabantio angrily insulting Othello, who refuses to rise to the challenge and resort to violence. This scene quickly sets the tone of the play as a tragedy of thought, in which words rather than actions will be important. Othello's refusal to fight is also the first insight into his character, specifically that he has control over the situation. Without establishing this and developing a connection between Othello and the reader, the tragedy would have less impact as Othello's control eventually unravels.

Contrast this to the sword fight in Goodnight Desdemona: a brief fight between Desdemona and Iago in which Constance attempts to intervene and save Desdemona. Important here is the fast pace, ending with Constance being dragged away, and continued contradictions. For example, Constance admires Desdemona's strength shortly before Desdemona turns her anger on Constance herself. This leads to the sense that Constance is not entirely in control of the situation she herself has invented. Shakespeare often placed characters in his comedies as at the mercy of fate, a tactic that is employed in the dreamworld of Goodnight Desdemona.

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