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Did Othello truly love Desdemona?

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Love is a universal feeling that everyone experiences at least once during his or her lifetime. According to Webster’s Dictionary, love is defined as a strong, positive emotion of regard and affection. In William Shakespeare’s play, Othello, there are many questions that the reader would ask about the love that Othello has for Desdemona. During many aspects of the play, Othello’s love for his wife is contradictory and questionable. Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Othello displays that he does not truly love Desdemona through his relationship was based on pity and not true love, the lack of trust Othello had for Desdemona raised false suspicion and Shakespeare’s design to create a tragedy with miscommunication between Othello and Desdemona.

First of all, the relationship between Othello and Desdemona is weak because it is merely based on pity and not true love. Othello tells the Duke of Venice about how his love for Desdemona began after he was accused of eloping and marrying her without her consent.

“Twas pitful,twas wonderous pitful;/She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished/That heaven had made her such a man.She thanked/me,/… She loved me for the dangers I had passed,/ And I loved her, that she did pity them.”(1.3.160-167)

In this passage, the Duke of Venice asked Othello why he loves Desdemona, he tells him that his love has grown as Desdemona would listen to his stories about war and pity them. By Othello saying this it provides evidence that there is no fundamental foundation binding this relationship together. Othello is basing his love on pity instead of the strong affection and feelings that is necessary to hold or keep a relationship together. This clearly lays out that the relationship between the two is not really based on much. Albert Gerard discusses how Othello ‘s lack in self- knowledge contributes to his poor judgments.

“But even Othello’s love affair with Desdemona, judging by his own report, seems to have developed smoothly, without painful moral searchings of any kind . . . Beside the deficient understanding of this society into which he has made his way, the motif of the secret marriage then also suggests a definite lack of self-knowledge on Othello’s part.” (Gerard, Critical Essay)

Albert Gerard explains that to be in love one must understand themselves first but Othello decided to rush things without any moral searching of any kind and married Desdemona. This bad judgment in rushing into a relationship without a base or moral searching was ultimately Othello’s downfall. Hence, Othello’s bond with his wife was not true affection but it was founded on sympathy. This leads into false suspicion that his lover, Desdemona, is cheating on him.

Pursuing this further, it can be argued that Othello does not know Desdemona very well. Therefore the relationship might not have actually been as strong as Othello would have expected. There was a lack of trust in the relationship, which made it very easy for Othello to falsely suspect that Desdemona was cheating on him. Othello demands Desdemona to tell him about her secret affair even though Desdemona is fully unaware of what he is talking about.

” I cry you mercy then:/ I took you for that cunning whore of Venice/ That married wit Othello [Calling] You, mistress”(4.2.87-89).

In this passage Othello is blaming Desdemona of being a whore. He is assumes that she is sleeping with Cassio, his lieutenant. Othello bases his assumption on false remarks made by his second-in-command after Cassio, the cunning Iago Though Desdemona is innocent of this accusation, Othello becomes so paranoid about the possibility that he decides to murder Desdemona. Albert Gerard discusses the fact that that Othello had no prominent reason to accuse Desdemona of cheating on him.

“The ultimate responsibility for the fateful development of the plot rests with a flaw in Othello himself. There is no “reasonable ground” for his jealousy; or, to put it somewhat differently, Shakespeare did not choose to provide any “reasonable ground” for it. The true motive, we may safely deduce, must be unreasonable. Yet, I find it difficult to agree that the Moor “considers human nature superior to what it actually is”: this may be true of his opinion of Iago, but Desdemona is really the emblem of purity and trustworthiness that he initially thought her to be.” (Gerard, Critical Essay)

Albert Gerard explains that there is no proper reason for Othello to be jealous of Cassio or even assume that Desdemona is cheating on him. Like any other person Othello should have confronted Desdemona instead of listening to others. This leads into Shakespeare’s design to create a tragedy with miscommunication between Othello and Desdemona.

Finally when one takes a step back to examine the big picture of Othello, they can’t help but appreciate the mastery of Shakespeare’s writing in demonstrating human behavior. For Shakespeare’s design to create a tragedy with miscommunication between Othello and Desdemona demonstrates the how weak the love is between two people can really be. The lack in communication and understanding with Othello and Desdemona caused the deaths of not only himself but Desdemona and Emilia too. As throughout the play, Othello, Othello spends most of his time listening to the villain than he does to his own wife.

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