Marriage in Othello

Marriagein Othello

Outof the many stages in life, marriage is probably the most importantunion that lots of people look forward to achieving. When two peoplefall in love, they dedicate their life to each other and enter into amarriage arrangement, which involves supporting each other in timesof needs. Similar to other aspects of life, love and marriage takesplace in the social space and, thus it is bound to encounter socialpressures. Imperatively, marriages serve various purposes in asociety. Although some of these purposes are universal in everysociety, some cultures extend different roles and expectation tomarriages and people who choose to enter such a union. As it isevidenced in Othello, a marriage between individuals is, besideindividual needs, expected by the society to serve the interests of anation. In this sense, marriages are torn in the dilemma of whetherto seek individual affection fulfilment or serve the interests of thesociety. In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, Shakespeare’srepresentation of marriage is dready through marriage of Othello andDesdemona in the play. Their marriage is unstable due to the socialstatus of women in relation to men that is based mainly onadmiration, and the social anxieties about interracial couples andthe social status.

Rightfrom dating to courtship and eventual marriage, the two characters,Othello and Desdemona, had to work their way through lots of odds andopposition from their family members and countrymen (Tvordi 88). Theexperiences of Othello and Desdemona in their marriage sometimesoverwhelms their coping capacities with stress. At some point, thechallenges are too much that the relationship disintegrates as thetwo characters failed to manage the problems that were weighing downon their marriage.

Notably,the marriage in question seems to surpass the state-set traditionalboundaries as the two characters involved in the arrangement seek tolive free of any influence or pressure. Both male friendships andmarriages in the play are influenced by the dynastic expectations,whether political or familial. In both cases, personalself-fulfillment in a marriage tends to replace duty to nation andfamily as more flexible models of describing family roles are sought.

Throughits perception of marriage, Othello generates tension betweenaffective marriage and lineal marriage, which are the models of unionthat are described in the play. In this spirit, the traditionaldiscourse of marriage subscribes to the basic role of a marriage ofproducing children and heirs (Tvordi 94). Similarly, exchange ofwoman provided families with a chance of getting kids from powerfulhouses. In the above statements, it is apparent that the status ofmen surpasses that of women by far. Women are literary viewed asobjects of exchange that facilitate good national and socialrelations with ample political and economic gains. Women have toendure lots of pressures from their parents who wish to dictate theirchoice of marriage for political and economic insurance.

Accordingly,the favoring of affection over economic and political demands act asa source of conflict in the play. Surreptitious marriage tends tofrustrate the lineal of the bride’s father expectations, who mustconform to the judgment of the state regarding his daughter’smarriage. The social expectation Evidently, Othello introduces aheroine in Desdemona who is extremely rebellious from a socialperspective in her parent’s home (Tvordi 97). In this respect,Desdemona manages to engage in a secret relationship with her loverand eventually got married without the consent of her father. Thesecret relationship does not go unnoticed by the members of thesociety who describe the actions as being disconcerting of linealconventions. These conventions dictate that a father be involved inthe decision making regarding his daughter’s choice of marriagepartner.

Theabove social concern was part of factors that contributed to theinstability of the marriage. Notably, women are not given a free handto choose their partners. In the event that a woman goes against thesocial rules, she is shunned by the society and, thus, receivesminimum support if any. The low social status that is accorded towomen is mainly grounded on admiration. This point is evidenced inthe play as Othello narrates to the senate the things that Desdemonaadmires in him (Tvordi 112). According to Othello, Desdemona admiredhis sufferings and struggles in life and fell in love with thosethings. This does not seem as a good reason for people to fall inlove, date, court and eventually dedicate their love to livetogether. A marriage that draws its strength from such a far-fetchedsource commitment is bound to be unstable, especially in times ofhardship. On the same note, it is possible for such a marriage tocome to end should the source of admiration cease to exist anymore.

In“Marriage, the Violent Traverse from Two to One”, the authornotes that the failure of the marriage between Othello and Desdemonato succeed was also facilitated by their failure to engage in afruitful union. Any society requires individuals to consummate theirmarriage and out of the physical union produce children thatguarantee the continuation of human species (Langis 50). As it turnedout, the two individuals were hardly concerned about their sexualneeds of each other as the issue was pushed to the periphery of theirlives. The virtues of their philosophy of two-in-one widened the gapbetween the two spouses eliminating every piece of human sympathy inthe couple. Ironically, the passion for virtue that both Desdemonaand Othello has for each ruined their marriage by completelyalienating the couple from each other. The worst case was theirdedication to maintain Desdemona’s “perfect soul”, which couldbe compromised with a physical intimacy.

Furthermore,the marriage of Othello and Desdemona remained unstable due to thesocial anxieties with regard to interracial couples. Failing to seekthe consent of a parent regarding choice of a spouse was one thing,but choosing a person from another race, especially the minorityraces added salt to a wound (Langis 56). Perhaps the marriage failedto work due to the different social and cultural beliefs that thekinsmen of the couples held. In simple language, the union with aforeigner, especially a black man is seen as a great disaster to thesociety, both to the couple, the parents and the heirs that will beproduced in the marriage. It is evident that the heirs from Desdemonaand Othello would ultimately face discrimination because of theirrace. The society did not appreciate any interracial unions due tothe cultural and social tensions between different racial groups.

Inevitably,the racial anxieties and social status demonstrates that the superiorracial group does not approve of the minority group. Nothing good canbe expected to come from an interracial marriage because of the lowstatus accorded to one group (Langis 66). Othello represents a lowstatus social group with the determination of changing his fortune.However, his efforts can never yield anything substantial because ofthe glass ceiling that hits his head anytime he tries to ascend to ahigher position in the society. Shockingly, Desdemona’s believethat her marriage to Othello would result to unintelligent lot ofchildren in the society. Such children would not match theintellectual demands of the society, and therefore would compromisethe intellectual integrity of the superior society.

Inconclusion, the marriage is unstable due to the social status ofwomen in relation to men that is based mainly on admiration, and thesocial anxieties about interracial couples and the social status.This paper has established that the two spouses had to work their waythrough lots of challenges in their marriage, which fails to endurethe test of the numerous problems and breaks at last. The marriagearrangement was built in contrary to the existing social, political,economic and familial conventions, which demanded unquestionedauthority of the bride’s father in choosing a marriage partners forhis daughter. Such a marriage is supposed to maintain the racialintegrity by producing exceptional heirs that surpass their parentsin terms of intelligence and achievement. Anything below the expectedstandards was approached with lots of caution and suspicion. Thatpaper has also established that the low status accorded to women andthe interracial couples was more than the marriage could havehandled. The last blow to the marriage between Othello and Desdemonacame from their confused philosophy of preserving their purity andholiness and this hindered their ability to nurture their lovethrough passionate intimacy.


Langis,unhae. Marriage, the Violent Traverse from Two to One in The Tamingof Shrew and Othelle. Journal of the Wooden O Symposium. 2008. Vol.8. Print.

Tvordi,Jesica. “InQuarter and in Terms like Bride and Groom”: Reconfiguring Marriage,Friendship, and Alliance in Othello.Journal of the Wooden O Symposium. 2008. 8, 85-101. Print.