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Psychoanalysis of Desdemona

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The psychoanalysis of the characters from Othello allowed me to understand the way Desdemona acted throughout the play and how come she took the abuse that Othello gave her. Like Othello, Desdemona is a controversial character that has a role in determining the outcome of the play. At the start of the play we see Desdemona as a strong, outspoken and behaves in a way that is outrageous in her society. She has fallen in love with a man of a different race, country, and color; and she is so determined to marry him despite what she knows would be her father’s opposition that she conceals her intentions and weds without her father’s consent.

Before Othello came Desdemona was described as perfect by Brabantio and she was sweet, modest and compliant, just like women of her status were meant to be. When Othello comes, at first Desdemona is frightened of him but the things she fears in him is what makes her attracted to him like his race and warrior status.

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He excited her and represents all the possibilities she has missed out on in life. When he talks about the things he has done she live through his adventures. She believes that by merging in marriage with him she will gain his exotic past and share his adventurous future.

The marriage provides her for an escape from her normal everyday life and enters the world of her dreams. Therefore she must seize the opportunity, this is why Desdemona speaks so speaks to the senate and rebels against her father. While she is fighting for her marriage, she suppresses her feelings of guilt; but they contribute later, I think, to her inability to defend herself against her husband’s unjust accusations. Despite her boldness Desdemona has a self-effacing nature. Desdemona’s fierceness with Othello on Cassio’s behalf isn’t the same as her rebelliousness she showed earlier but it is the typical self-effacing project of fighting for someone else. Iago understands Desdemona and knows that her compliant behaviour is compulsive and once Cassio is has been enlisted in her cause she will behave with extreme passion. She does exactly as Iago wants as she promises Cassio that Othello “shall never rest” until he has granted his suit and that she “shall rather die/ Than give [his] cause away” (III, iii). Desdemona is driven into self-destructive behaviour, then, by her need to be “the ultimate of helpfulness, generosity, and sacrifice.” What has happened to Cassio is precisely what she could not bear to have happen to herself. It is to relieve her own anxieties, therefore, as well as Cassio’s, that she so passionately pleads his cause.

Desdemona is so consumed by her own needs of helping Cassio that she is blind to see what is going on in Othello’s head. The self-effacing person is terrified of hostility, both in himself and in others, and “prefers to give in, to ‘understand’ and forgive” (Horney 1950, 219).

A self-effacing person has a tendency to shoulder the blame of someone else’s wrongs and will accuse themselves rather than others and tend to scrutinize himself or be apologetic in the face of obviously unwarranted criticism, we see these defences work in Desdemona after the handkerchief scene when she excuses her husband and blames herself. When Othello begins to make his outrageous accusations, Desdemona consistently protests her innocence, but she never accuses him of irrationality or shows more than a fleeting resentment of his unfairness and cruelty. She certainly does not defend herself as vigorously as she had fought for Cassio, in a way she acts as she would if she were guilty. Despite her declaration of innocence she feels as if she was is responsible for Othello’s anger in some way, she seems to be feeling that his behaviour is justified and she is to blame. Another reason Desdemona fells self-loathing is that Othello is treating her scornfully, her sense of worth sinks dramatically in the face of Othello’s abuse. She believes that if her treats her this way, there is something terribly wrong with her. “Once they transfer their pride to each other, Othello and Desdemona are completely dependent upon each other’s love and approval. Just as Desdemona’s love confirms Othello’s idealized image of himself, making him feel like an emperor, so Othello’s love confirms Desdemona’s sense of herself as an extraordinary woman, fit to lie by an emperor’s side.” If Othello is angry with her she believes that she must have some fault that has cost her his love.

She feels guilty for not having lived up to her expectations, that she must please Othello perfectly, and not retaining his devotion. The collapse of her dream of glory makes her more vulnerable to feelings of guilt about her earlier transgressions. Part of Desdemona’s feeling of guilt derives from her need to defend Othello: she blames herself in order to excuse him. Desdemona need to protect her pride not only in herself but also in Othello, she takes the blame she takes the blame to protect his and protests her innocence to protect herself. Once Othello turns against her, she adopts an extreme form of self-effacing, which contributes to her demise but also preserves what is most important to her;

her union with her glorious hero. Her death satisfies her need for punishment that arises from her feelings of guilt. When Desdemona answers “I myself” when Emilia asks “who hath done this deed?” has an element of truth, for not only does Desdemona cooperate in Othello’s plans for her murder, but her submissiveness contributes to Iago’s plot and prevents her from attacking her husband’s delusion. Othello is a tragedy of character and it presents the fatal interaction of three highly complex and disturbed individuals. Desdemona seems to represent Christian ideal of grace, since she loves and forgives the undeserving Othello; and she may have been so intended by Shakespeare, for the rhetoric is much in her favour. What the play actually shows, however, is that her self-effacing goodness is as fatal a flaw as the aggressiveness of Iago and Othello.

Cite this Psychoanalysis of Desdemona

Psychoanalysis of Desdemona. (2016, Oct 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/psychoanalysis-of-desdemona/

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