.. nas desire for her voice to be heard fed into Iagos web of deception (Walker 2). Both Desdemona and Othello were under the impression that Iago was an honest man. Thus, when Othello accused Desdemona of adultery, she went to Iago for help. Naturally Iago, who put the idea of adultery in Othellos head, told Desdemona that Othello was troubled by business with the state. In this way Iago avoided the revealing of his manipulation.
To Desdemona he appeared to be comforting and supporting in her time of confusion. To Othello, Iago had the appearance of a loyal servant by informing him of Desdemonas affair. These manipulative actions by Iago can be related to William Blakes A Poison Tree. The lines of Blakes poem indicate the wrath that one man had for his enemy and how he used his wrath to manipulate his enemy. It reads: I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright. And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole, When the night had veild the pole; In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree (531). Iagos foes were Cassio, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Othello.
He used deceit to make his wrath against them all look as though he was just trying to help them. His actions were like the poison fruit on Blakes tree that looked so appealing. Iago lured everyone into his trap until they were all under his control. Desdemona, although an intelligent woman seeking liberation, fell into Iagos trap because she loved Othello and was upset that he had considered her a whore. She was a very trusting person and did not think that Iago would her hurt.
Although she was striving to be play an equal role of the men in Venice, at times her sensitivities overpowered her desire to break the gender barriers. In Taylors book, he states that children who are father-identifiers still revert to their own type (314). Thus Desdemona was still influenced by matriarchal themes such as love and emotion, rather than power. This is why she had such a strong desire to make amends with Othello. It is also the reason in which she put so much trust into Iago.
Desdemonas matriarchal sensitivities are like those of the character Frances in Irwin Shaws The Girls in Their Summer Dresses. Like Frances, Desdemona wanted to be loved and acknowledged by her husband. When Frances said to her husband, Im good for you,Ive made a good wife, a good housekeeper, a good friend. Id do any damn thing for you (499), her desire to be acknowledged as a good wife derived from her matriarchal tendencies of sensitivity. Desdemona, like Frances, could not control her feelings of insignificance.
Both were striving to be the best wives that they could be and both felt that their roles as wives were being threatened. Therefore, their matriarchal instincts were to do anything in their power to alleviate the tension between their husbands. This desire by Desdemona to please her husband can also be attributed to her intelligence and liberation. She does not merely listen to Othellos accusations, but instead tries to explain her situation. She could have very easily let Othello control her but she made her point known and told the truth about her circumstance.
Desdemona, just before her death, challenges Othello as she had challenged her father and defends herself with the same straightforward precision she used before the Senate: And have you mercy too! I never did Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio But with such a general warranty of heaven As I might love; I never gave him token. (Oth. V. ii. 59-62) Even in her death, Desdemona proved her liberation by showing that she controlled her own desires. Unfortunately Desdemona, by destroying the gender barriers, sealed her own fate.
Because the men of Venice were unable to comprehend Desdemonas self-control, her death was inevitable. Othello realized that Desdemonas body and mind were her own domain. Upon this realization, Othello also saw that he had lost his power. By taking charge of her own destiny, Desdemona revealed to Othello that he was destined to lose control. Forced to deal with Desdemonas rebelliousness and the pressures of Iago, Othello murdered his wife. Sadly, the ultimate price that Desdemona had to pay for her liberation was death.
Bibliography Notes 1. On this point, a more detailed history of the role of women in the 1600s can be found in Taylor, Sex in History 19-71. 2. Taylor offers a further explanation and comparison between the father-identifier and mother-identifier schemes in Appendix A and B of his book Sex in History. 3. The view that Holland has of Desdemona is a realist view that he applies to all the characters in Othello.
He later offers an antirealist view as an optional analysis of the characters in the play in his book Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare, 246-258. 4. Carol McKewin, Counsels of Gall and Grace: Intimate Conversations between Women in Shakespeares Plays offers an essentially positive reading of the female characters and female friendship, but notes that both sexes share in tragic responsibility: the men misconceive the women; the women overestimate the men. This essay is contained in Lenz, Greene, and Neely, eds. The Womans Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, where a further evaluation of the role of women in Shakespeare can be found in Bibliography Blake, William.
A Poison Tree. Literature: The Human Experience. Shorter 6th ed. with Essays. Ed. Richard Abcarian and Marvin Klotz.
New York: St. Martins, 1996. 530. Burns, Robert. A Red, Red Rose. Literature: The Human Experience.
Shorter 6th ed. 531. Coleridge, S.T. Coleridges Essays and Lectures on Shakespeare and Some Other Old Poets and Dramatists. London: Dent, 1907.
169-177. Holland, Norman N. Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare. New York: Farrar, 1966. McKewin, Carole. Counsels of Gall and Grace: Intimate Conversations between Women in Shakespeares Plays. The Womans Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare.
Ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, Carol Thomas Neely. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1980. 117-129. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Literature: The Human Experience.
Shorter 6th ed. 571-664. Shaw, Irwin. The Girls in Their Summer Dresses. Literature: The Human Experience. Shorter 6th ed. 496-500.
Taylor, Rattray G. Sex in History. New York: Harper, 1973. Walker, Marilyn. Desdemona and Desire.
17 Nov. 1997. Indiana U. 24 April 1999 .