I do perceive here a divided duty. (1.3.)
Desdemona says this line when she realizes she is torn between her father and her new husband. At this time, a woman was expected to show total obedience to the male authority in her life, but Desdemona is now transitioning from loyalty to her father to loyalty to her new husband. The quote reveals that Desdemona is very aware of, and eager to honor, social expectations of showing loyalty to her husband. This loyalty will later endanger Desdemona because she refuses to defend herself or challenge Othello’s authority over her.
Do not doubt, Cassio,
But I will have my lord and you again
As friendly as you were. (3.3.)
Here, Desdemona cheerfully reassures Cassio that she will bring about a reconciliation between him and Othello. The quote shows that at this point Desdemona feels confident in her relationship and sure that she can persuade her husband to share her perspective. The quote is an example of dramatic irony in that Desdemona thinks she is being kind and helpful, but has no idea that she is about to fall victim to the trap Iago has laid.
I think the sun where he was born
Drew all such humors from him. (3.4.)
Desdemona insists to Emilia that Othello is not a jealous man. She makes a playful reference to Othello’s origins, suggesting that the sun in his native land made him impervious to jealousy, and therefore he is an exception to the typical Venetian tendency to be suspicious of women’s behavior. The quote shows Desdemona’s naïve and trusting nature, since she does not realize just how jealous her husband is capable of being.
His unkindness may defeat my life
But never taint my love. (4.2.)
Desdemona says this line to Emilia and Iago as she explains how she will remain faithful and loving to Othello even if he insists on accusing her of infidelity. Desdemona swears she would love him even if his mistreatment was responsible for her death, but we don’t know how seriously she takes this possibility. It seems most likely that she still clings to the belief of being able to persuade Othello of her innocence, and does not yet understand how much danger she is in.
Beshrew me if I would do such a wrong
For the whole world. (4.3.)
Desdemona explains to Emilia that she would never consider being unfaithful, no matter the circumstances. The quote shows that Desdemona is so virtuous she cannot even understand why a woman would betray her husband. Desdemona’s innocence is part of her undoing because she never stops to think about how her behavior might appear to someone who is viewing it with suspicion. Instead she assumes that everyone will see her integrity and purity.
Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight. (5.2.)
Here, Desdemona pleads for her life in the moments before Othello kills her. Desdemona only comes to understand her husband’s murderous intentions at the last instant, because she cannot believe he would actually harm her. Even when Desdemona does speak out, she seems to accept that Othello has the right to kill her if he wants to. She doesn’t ask that her life be spared, but only that her death be delayed.
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