Othello’s Desdemona – A Well-Rounded Tragic Heroine

When reading or viewing Shakespeare’s tragedies in print, stage play, or movie form, one will find various discussions surround the theme of voluntary and involuntary character transformation. For example, one may observe the transformational process of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, whereby her character initially was against patriarchal submission; however, she eventually changed in the end to one of acceptance. Secondly, The Merchant of Venice displayed the involuntary transformation of Shylock from Judaism to Christianity against his own free will.

Next, the play Richard III also exhibited a radical transformation process of Richard himself being that of a serial-killing dictator, thus, is shocking to the conscience of any reasonable person, to that of an abandoned lone and wounded wolf without any fangs to strike another victim. Additionally, one may observe Macbeth and the duality of nature concerning the duplicitous aspect of the self, and the dynamics which illustrated a transformational path of sanity to insanity in the end. In this article, however, the observation is on Desdemona in Othello, and what fate she will encounter in this transformation process.

Some of these characters started with a villainous nature and tragically remained the same; while others started as flat characters, thus, having no redeeming value of positive transformation. Based on these dynamics, one could argue that Desdemona started the play as a courageous character, and ended as a well-rounded tragic heroine based on the transformational process. Additionally, she sparked the play by advocating inspiration in the beginning, thus, she demonstrated one heroic character trait and transformed in the end to a totally different submissive character trait. Based on these showings one could argue that Desdemona was a well-rounded tragic heroine in the ending acts of Othello.

Desdemona is also a well-rounded tragic heroine for several reasons. There are many reasons; however, most of those reasons will not be discussed in this article. Throughout the play (Othello), Desdemona transforms from being a woman defending her freedom of choice to marry her husband during the marriage. Next, she endures disproportionate persecution from her husband during the marriage. Finally, she dies in the end at the hands of her husband based on her marriage. These are some of the reasons why Desdemona is classified as a well-rounded tragic heroine.

Additionally, to be a tragic heroine one must undergo suffering that is clearly not proportionate to the mistakes made. Clearly, Desdemona’s suffering which resulted in her death is not proportional to her mistakes. Next, she is overcome by forces she cannot control, such as, the position of authority her husband holds. Furthermore, she is a subordinate, obedient to her husband, and finally, her obedience and naivety leads to her demise.