Desdemona from Othello: Character Analysis & Overview

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Desdemona is a main character and the wife of Othello in William Shakespeare's tragedy play 'Othello.' Learn about Desdemona through a character analysis and overview of the importance of her character to the overall story. Updated: 09/14/2021

Introducing Desdemona

In sixteenth century Venetian society, there were distinct customs to be followed regarding sex, gender, and race. Desdemona is a central character in William Shakespeare's popular play Othello. She is a young Venetian beauty who is adored by her father, Brabanzio. She goes against traditional Venetian custom by marrying an outsider, a black man named Othello, instead of one of the rich Venetian men she is expected to marry.

The play tells the story of the demise of Desdemona and Othello's relationship due to mistrust on the part of Othello and lies told by Iago, a man who wants to ruin their marriage. Shortly after they marry, Othello and Desdemona announce their marriage, which is not customary in Venetian society. Desdemona is not concerned about her husband's ancestry or the disapproval she receives from others. On the other hand, Othello is insecure about being an outsider and chooses to believe Iago's report that Desdemona is cheating on him rather than believe his wife is faithful.

In the beginning of the play, Desdemona was a strong woman who defied traditional Venetian beliefs, but as the story goes on, her strength is weakened, and her relationship with her husband diminishes. Her independence slowly shifts over to obedience.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Diary of Anne Frank by Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich: Summary & Characters

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Introducing Desdemona
  • 1:17 Independent Desdemona
  • 2:43 Obedient Desdemona
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Independent Desdemona

Othello explains that Desdemona is marrying him because he is adventurous, and she loves his stories and lifestyle. Othello is a strong, popular, and well-respected soldier. When questioned by her father about her husband she states, 'But here's my husband, and so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you before her father so much I challenge that I may profess due to the Moor my lord' ( Act 1, Scene 3, lines 184-188). She confidently tells her father that she will be loyal to her husband, just as her mother had been to him.

When discussing her love for Othello, Desdemona states, 'That I did love the Moor to live with him, my downright violence and storm of fortunes may trumpet to the world' (Act 1, Scene 3, lines 247-249).

Desdemona can also be seen as naïve about relationships. She asks her friend and attendant Emilia if it is possible for a woman to cheat on her husband, which she is later accused of doing. When she hears Iago criticize women, Desdemona tells his wife Emilia, 'do not learn of him, Emilia, though he may be thy husband' (Act II, Scene 1, lines 163-164). Desdemona does not believe there is anything wrong with a woman standing up to a man when she thinks he is wrong. Her beliefs quickly change when she tries to talk to Othello on Cassio's behalf.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account