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In Shakespeare’s Othello, we see the protagonist Othello being deceived due to his openness of nature and credulity. When Iago estimates Othello’s character as follows, “The moor is of a free and open nature, / Those thinks men honest but seem to be so. / And will as tenderly be led by the nose/ As asses are. ” (II. i. 387-90). We see that it is this trait of his which strained his relationship with his beloved Desdemona. The great tragedy of Shakespeare, Othello, starts with a marriage which was based on a very strong bond of love between Othello and Desdemona.
From the early part of the play itself, it is evident that Othello has a slight feeling about his inferiority in terms of beauty and color. He substantiates this point by telling that instead of loving him for what he is, “She loved me for the dangers I had pass’d, / And I loved her that she did pity them. ” (I. iii. 167-8) We see that throughout the play, Othello is a victim of his own jealousy and Iago’s betrayal. This gives way to a change in attitude towards his lady love- Desdemona. As a result, Desdemona, once the whole world of Othello, became his ‘most loved enemy’ who happened to die by his own hands.
Hence we can see that love in their relation reaches the highest point that even the lover’s life is at the disposition of her better half. That too as a victim of suspicious loyalty Desdemona is believed by him to be immersed in an affair with his trusted lieutenant, Cassio. To take advantage of the grains of suspicion in the mind of Othello about Desdemona, Iago sets the stage through her handkerchief. Othello is convinced by Iago that his fears about Desdemona’s disloyalty towards him are beyond doubt by promising that he saw Desdemona’s handkerchief with Cassio: “By Heaven, that should be my handkerchief” (IV. . 147).
It is here that we get the most evident proof of Othello towards his wife as the love for his wife is well conveyed by making it clear that he can not bear to live knowing that his wife has become a whore,: “Aye, let her rot, and perish, and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. ” (IV. i. 168). Thus a man, who was hailed for his royal lineage, his skill for adventure, his most efficient soldiership, his openness of nature and credulity, his modesty, and dignity stoops to the level of a murderer without any second thoughts.
He did so because he loved his wife so dearly so that whether he lived or died, whether he maintained his reputation or not, nothing was of importance to him compared to his love for Desdemona. Here their relationship turns out to be ironic for it is difficult for a common man to think that one would murder someone for intense unblemished love. On the other hand, we see Desdemona forgetting her very self out of her self-effacing love and devotion for Othello.
She idolized him, as she says: “I saw Othello’s visage in his mind/ And to his honours and his valiant parts/ Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. (I. iii. 251-3). When she was charged with infidelity, and that her husband could not have done anything more unkind, she could only protest: “His unkindness may defeat my life,/ But never taint my love. ” (IV. ii. 159-61). Her tactlessness that springs from her purity and innocence was what brought about her death. If she had imbibed the worldly maxims, which Emilia dispensed, she might have averted the disaster. She made a capital blunder in engaging herself to solicit for Cassio. She had not the remotest idea that her action might be misinterpreted. She did not realize it even at the visible displeasure of her lord.
A woman of the world would have taken the hint, and pressed no more Cassio’s suit. Iago, in spite of himself, meant but the simple truth when he said, “She is of so free, so kind, so blessed a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested. ”(II. iii. 298-9). Not till the last moment did the truth break upon her mind that she had compromised herself by pleading for Cassio. It is the simplicity and purity of Othello and Desdemona, in all means that is exploited by Iago, who was trusted to the utmost by both, especially Othello. Othello’s life was always lived by faith, instead of right.
Moreover, he was a man whose nature was passionate and high, generous in thought and ready in action. He considered all that is subtle and devious as dishonor, and as Desdemona understood about him, jealousy and suspicion was foreign to his nature. His life was always identified with his absolute trust in Desdemona. But when a person who was too honest to him throughout and a good friend full of experience, honor, devotion and delicacy to him, exhorted too vehemently that Desdemona is not at all honest to him and that she is having a very passionate love affair with Cassio, his innocence and purity forces him to believe it.
Desdemona too is a victim to the darker shades of finer feelings like innocence, purity and simplicity. She is a saint who always stood firm for love, be it to her father or her husband. She firmly believes that there is nothing in this world that cannot be recovered by true love. Her answer concerning the fatal handkerchief, “It is not lost; but what an if it were? ”(II. iv. 79) shows she, most pathetically and with a childlike innocence, endeavors to uphold the truth of her relation to her husband.
If she had tried to reply to the accusation she was in, with harsh words, her angelic stature in the minds of those who loved her might have faltered. A close reading of the play substantiates the fact that Othello and Desdemona are the two most innocent people that ever existed. At first their relationship is romantic to the utmost but it takes a profane hue in course of time due to the lack of a perfect foundation for a relationship, by race, color, temper and character and hence we see an absence of trust, understanding and communication between the two. For Othello, the word ‘battle’ is of foremost importance as he was a perfect soldier.
We see him telling about himself: “Rude am I in my speech, / And little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace; / For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith, / Till now some nine moons wasted, they have us’d/ Their dearest action in the tented field;/ And little of this great world can I speak/ More than pertains to feats of broils and battle”. (I. iii. 81-7). In sharp contrast to this, we have Desdemona who is totally inexperienced in the ways of the world. It is Othello’s war stories that infatuate her.
Once she identifies his virility and manliness, she is taken aback with a mad love towards him. But it should be debated whether that is a solid base on which a relation should be built on. We see that though she speaks so fondly about him, her understanding about his nature is minimum. She defends her newly born love for Othello, in the following words, (among other things), “My downright violence, and storm of fortunes, / May trumpet to the world. My heart’s subdu’d / Even to the very quality of my lord. / I saw Othello’s visage in his mind, /……… soul and fortune consecrate. ” (I. iii 248-253)
Hence the whole play shows forth that it is innocence and purity that laid foundation to the failure of the relation between Othello and Desdemona who was renowned for the purity of love between them crossing all the barriers that were ‘built’ by man. These good qualities, undoubtedly, turned fatal in their all encompassing love. We find Anthony Trollope’s Lady Anna an apt sequel to the relationship presented between Othello and Desdemona. In the above-said novel we have Daniel Thwaite, a tailor and his lover, later wife, Lady Anna, who belongs to the aristocracy. There too we have Frederic instead of Cassio.
In both these works we see that the people with whom the ladies are accused of having an illegitimate relation are far better and appropriate than their present spouses. This instills a feeling of inferiority in both the men and that is what takes the garb of jealousy and in course of time their intense love to their better halves become too bitter and lead them to much graver mistakes. Trollope, no doubt had Shakespeare’s Othello in mind, while he was drawing his caricatures of Lady Anna, Thwaite and Frederic to make them sequels to Desdemona, Othello and Cassio respectively.