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Desdemona is Othellos primary weakness.

Discuss The taboo relationship shared between Desdemona and Othello in Othello the Moor of Venice is one that is controversial in numerous ways; both due to the unconventional racial union of a white woman and a black man during Elizabethan England, and, the questionable extent to which Desdemona consequently acts as Othellos greatest weakness. In many ways, acting as a symbol of love and innocence, it can be argued that Desdemona lures Othello into both marriage and, ultimately, death. Moreover, questions surrounding the basis of the love held between Desdemona and Othello further emphasize the view that Desdemona is Othellos most powerful weakness. It can be argued, however, that they are in fact other, more prominent, weaknesses existent in Othello that can be found independently of his association to Desdemona. Namely Iagos manipulation, Othellos ethnicity and his status can all be argued to contribute to the characters fundamental weaknesses more than that of the role of Desdemona. Although Desdemona acts as Othellos prime temptress and emotional attachment, arguably it is the weaknesses situated within Othellos character that resonate most profoundly throughout the play. It can be argued that Desdemona is Othellos principal weakness when referring to the meaning of her name and her paradoxical role as a symbol of love. Desdemonas name, translated as the unfortunate, immediately illustrates the characters ill-fated destiny. Whats more, the ambiguity of a phrase such as the unfortunate can be interpreted as implicating those who are close to Desdemona, suggesting they too will be affected by this misfortune. With this in mind, in can be argued that in being bound by marriage to Desdemona, Othello is uncontrollably weak to her ill fate. It must be acknowledged, however, that audience members watching the play would not necessarily be aware of the meaning of Desdemonas name, unless implicated in a specific directors adaptation, and so may not interpret this as exemplifying Desdemona as Othellos weakness. Paradoxically, however, this unfortunate character acts as a somewhat blinding symbol of love to Othello. Such love is illustrated in he line delivered by Othello, I cannot speak enough of this content;/It stops me here; it is too much of joy. The quote, exclaiming Othellos happiness in seeing Desdemona following the Venetian and Ottoman battle at sea, depicts Othello associating Desdemona with solely positive attributes such as content and joy. Moreover, the phrase it is it is too much of joy arguably implies that Othellos feelings of love towards Desdemona are overwhelming and overpowering; almost too much to bear. This quote, directly following the battle at sea, is illustrative of the parallels between love and war/conflict throughout the play. A specific example of this is seen in Act 3 where Desdemona drops the handkerchief, which is itself a symbol of Othellos love for Desdemona, whilst attending to Othellos headache; further expressing her loving and nurturing feelings towards Othello. However, the handkerchief is later used by Iago as the ocular proof that Othello requests to prove that Desdemona is being adulterous and no longer loves him. Here, the handkerchief, being illustrative of love, is illustrative of war and conflict as it undergoes somewhat of a battle, and is later used to cause destruction. It would seem that as long as Desdemona represents a love that is inherently destructive, she acts as Othellos greatest weakness. Moreover, questions about what Othello and Desdemonas relationship is built upon can be argued to be illustrative of Othellos weak nature when concerned with Desdemona. The line stated by Othello, She loved me for the dangers I had

passed,/And I loved her for she did pity them can be argued to depict a weak image of love. The phrase dangers I had passed suggests that Desdemona was enticed by the mystery and danger associated to Othello, more than the man himself. Whats more, stating that he loves her for the fact that she pities his past adventures arguably implies that Othello indulges in a rather conceited sense of love. Whats more, the quote suggests that Othello is somewhat blind in acknowledging that the relationship he is so adorning of, may actually, itself, be greatly weak. This blind behavior can be argued to strongly illustrate Othellos weakness as Desdemona. Although it can be argued Othello is blind in his love for Desdemona, this is arguably indicative of his lack of judgment, which can be seen as his overriding weakness. This lack of judgment is most prominently illustrated in Iagos manipulation of Othello. Throughout the play, Iago can be interpreted as Othellos metaphorical puppet master, as he appears to increasingly emotionally control Othello. Iagos use of the theme of poison is indicative of this control. Iago states that his jealousy towards Othello leads him to pour...pestilence into his ear. Here Iagos reference to pestilence is symbolic of his devious dishonesty and manipulations that lead Othello to question Desdemonas honesty. Moreover, the use of naming one of Othellos physical features in the word ear arguably illustrates the physical, as well as psychological, control that Iago has over Othello emphasizing his role as a puppet on a string. This highlights the view that, in fact, it is Iago that acts as Othellos greatest weakness. Critic A.C Bradley supports this view, arguing that Othello is a sympathetic tragic hero who would have lived a blameless existence if he had not come into contact with Iago. Bradley shows that Othellos weaknesses are triggered by the presence of Iago. It can be argued, however, that although Iago does manipulate and poison Othello into wanting to kill Desdemona, he does so by identifying Desdemona as his prime weakness. The line, Shes gone. I am abused, and my relief/ must be to loathe her illustrates the extent to which Desdemona is Othellos most vivid weakness. Othello, in stating that he must now loathe Desdemona, shows that he can only love her or hate her; demonstrating Othellos volatile and erratic response to the prospect of Desdemona being gone. Moreover, the use of the caesura within the quote highlights Othellos loss of control, as his speech is no longer flowing and unbroken. In Act 3, Othello is persuaded within 150 lines to doubt Desdemona, and within another 240 lines he has bonded himself to Iago and has sworn to murder Desdemona the same evening. Clearly, Iagos technique in identifying Desdemona as Othellos primary weakness is spot on as Othello so quickly becomes irrational, villainous and pitiful. The critic F. R Leavis supports this view, arguing that Iago would not have had any effect on Othello if his weaknesses had not already been there Desdemona clearly being central to them all. Despite Desdemona being argued to be Othellos principal weakness, arguably there are greater weaknesses Shakespeare attributes to Othello before he has even appeared on stage. One interpretation of this is that Othello is inevitably a victim of his own success, leading his achievements to act as his greatest weaknesses. It is, after all, Othello success and adventures that leads him to Desdemona and their relationship. This is shown in the line, She loved me for the dangers I had passed, where Othello highlights that his achievements are what enticed Desdemona to fall in love with him.

With this is mind; it is clear to see that Othellos role as the warlike Moor leads to his relationship with Desdemona, which, in turn, leads to both of their deaths. Moreover, arguably the most prominent attribute given to Othello by Shakespeare that is his overwhelming weakness is that of is role as a black man in a white, Elizabethan society. As the original title, Othello the Moor of Venice, illustrates, Othello is immediately set up to be a character symbolic of isolation and alienation. In conjunction to this, blackamores, as they were known as at the time, were representative of negative stereotypes at the time, such as bestiality, death, witchcraft an sexual promiscuity. This was demonstrated in Thomas Wrights poem The Passions of the Mind written during Elizabethan England where the colour black is labeled as the lustie. Clearly, Othellos race is both stifiling and weakening as he is continually associated with negative stereotypes. It must be noted, however, that contemporary audiences may not see Othellos race as such a strong weakness within the context of the 21st Century Western world, where racial equality has been progressed significantly. From a post-colonial interpretation, however, Iagos manipulation of Othello, which ultimately leads to his suicide, is emblematic of the white man colonizing the black man indicative of the ever-expanding British Empire during Elizabethan England. In this way, Othellos race in the context of Elizabethan England acts as his greatest weakness; like the foreign lands invaded by imperialistic England at the time, the foreign Othello is set up to inevitably be colonized and manipulated by the white, British, Iago.

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