The Presentation of Desdemona:
her character, nature, feelings and gender issues
These references are intended to provide some evidence for informed discussion and further textual research on how Shakespeare presents the character.
Iago: an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe
Iago: you’ll have your daughter covered with a barbary horse
Iago: your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
Brabantio: Oh heaven, how got she out?
Othello: I love the gentle Desdemona
1.2. 62 ff
Brabantio: stowed my daughter …. thou hast enchanted her … thou hast practised on her with foul charms
Brabantio: A maiden never bold
Brabantio: To fall in love with what she feared to look on?
Othello: I did thrive in this lady’s love / And she in mine.
Othello: She loved me for the dangers that I had passed / And I loved her that she did pity them.
Brabantio: If she confess that she was half the wooer,
Desdemona: I saw Othello’s visage in his mind … a moth of peace … Let me go with him
Desdemona: That I did love the Moor to live with him
Brabantio: She has deceived her father and may thee.
Iago: It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor.
Cassio: he hath achieved a maid / That paragons description and wild fame.
Cassio: Tempests themselves … / …do omit / Their mortal natures, letting go safely by / The divine Desdemona
Cassio: Great Jove … / Make loves quick pants in Desdemona’s arms
Cassio\; Hail to thee, lady, and the grace of heaven, / …Enwheel thee round
Iago: He takes her by the palm
Desdemona: The heavens forbid / But that our loves and comforts should increase / Even as our days do grow
Iago: she first loved the Moor, but for bragging and telling her fantastical lies
Iago: very nature will instruct her in it and compel her to some second choice.
Iago: their breaths embraced together
Othello: Come, my dear love, / the purchase made, the fruits are to ensue
Cassio: she’s a most exquisite lady … Indeed she’s a most fresh and delicate creature … An inviting eye; and yet methinks right modest … She is indeed perfection.
Iago: For ’tis most easy / Th’ inclining Desdemona to subdue / In any honest suit. … His soul is so enfettered to her love / That she may make, unmake, do what she list
Iago: I will turn her virtue into pitch
Desdemona: I’ll watch him tame, and talk him out of patience … thy solicitor shall rather die / Than give thy cause away.
Desdemona: I prithee call him back
Desdemona: whate’er you be, I a, obedient
Iago: She did deceive her father, marrying you / And when she seemed to shake, and fear your looks, / She loved them most.
Iago: clime, complexion and degree
Othello: Desdemona’s honest
Othello: If she be false, O then heaven mocks itself
Desdemona: ’twas that hand that gave away my heart
My lord is not my lord
Othello: lest her body and beauty / unprovide my mind again
Desdemona: I have not deserved this
Emilia: I durst, my lord, to wager that she is honest, / Lay down my soul at stake
Desdemona: your true and loyal wife
Othello: O thou weed / Who art so lovely fair and smell’st so sweet / That the sense aches at thee
Desdemona: By heaven, you do me wrong
Desdemona: I am a child
Emilia: she hath forsook so many noble matches
Desdemona: heaven pardon him
Desdemona: I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel … Unkindness may do much / And his unkindness may defeat my life / But never taint my love.
Desdemona: ‘My mother had a maid … She had a song of ‘willow’
Desdemona sings: The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree
Des: there be women who do abuse their husbands / In such gross kind?
Desdemona: Beshrew me, if I would do such a wrong / For the sake of the whole world!
Emilia: And have we not affections? / Desires for sport?
Emilia: I do think it is their husband’s faults / If wives do fall
[Desdemona in her bed]
Othello: Nor scr that whiter skin of hers than snow / And smooth as monumental alabaster
Othello: balmy breath
Desdemona on her sins: They are loves I bear you
Desdemona: one prayer …. O! Lord! Lord! Lord!
Desdemona answering Emilia’s who hath done this deed?: Nobody. I myself. … Commend me to my kind lord.:
Emilia: I’ll kill myself for grief
Emilia: She was chaste
Othello: ill-starred wench … Cold, cold, my girl, / Even like thy chastity … this heavenly sight!
Othello: [Speak] Of one whose hand / Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away / Richer than all his tribe