Act Two in Understanding Desdemona in Othello by William Shakespeare

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Act Two in Understanding Desdemona in Othello by William Shakespeare

The play “Othello” written by William Shakespeare is a tragedy in which appearance and reality are juxtaposed with jealously, hate, honesty and innocence. The character of Desdemona is one of the most admirable, and yet most pitiful, in all of Shakespeare. She is completely innocent, unable to comprehend how her husband can be jealous when “I never gave him cause!”. The other women in the play are cynical Emila and Cassio’s mistress, Bianca: contrasted with these two, Desdemona stands as an icon of female purity. Desdemona is altogether more simply drawn, She embodies the principle of ‘good’ in the play.

Act two gives the
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Cassio is projected by Shakespeare as seeing perfection within Desdemona. He emphasises her prestige to himself with comments such as “our captins’s captin” and the “Divine Desdemona”. Cassio seeing Desdemona above Othello almost presents her as angelic. Desdemona is perceived as virtious woman who is loving, innocent and loves Othello.

When Desdemona enters she thanks the “valiant” Cassio, and her first concerns are of her “lord” Othello. Her piroites lie in her husband and his safety, “O, but I fear…”, Desdemona is acting as she is perceived. Once a sail is spotted Desdemona becomes more relaxed but still anxious. More than any other character in the play, she has a thorough knowledge of “goodness”, although Shakespeare takes pains to make it plausibly human in it appearance. Her concern as she waits for Othello’s arrival, Desdemona tries to desguise her own anxiousness “I am not merry, but I do beguile The thing I am, by seeming otherwise.” This comment has a sinster ring to it, and it helps to make Othello’s own fall more plausible, but at this point it enables us to engage with the thoughts and feelings of Desdemona as a caring human being, as well as savour the irony of her position.

There is a sense in which Desdemona is intrinsically incorruptible, although her doubts go some way towards humanising her character.

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