Othello

Desdemona Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The Daughter of the Venetian senator Brabantio. Having been charmed by Othello's tales of exotic lands and military exploits, Desdemona elopes with him before the play begins (although they do not consummate their marriage until they have received sanction from the Duke and, reluctantly, her father). Desdemona is a model wife, if perhaps too trusting of Iago. She follows Othello to Cyprus and shows constant loyalty to him, even to the moment of death, when he kills her on false suspicions that she has been unfaithful.

Desdemona Quotes in Othello

The Othello quotes below are all either spoken by Desdemona or refer to Desdemona. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Othello published in 2015.
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
"Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her!
For I'll refer me to all things of sense,
If she in chains of magic were not bound,
Whether a maid, so tender, fair, and happy,
So opposite to marriage that she shunned
The wealthy curled darlings of our nation,
Would ever have, t'incur a general mock,
Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom
Of such a thing as thou—to fear, not to delight."
Related Characters: Brabantio (speaker), Othello, Desdemona
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 1.2.82-90
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
"I do perceive here a divided duty."
Related Characters: Desdemona (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.209
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
"Oh heavy ignorance! Thou praisest the worst best."
Related Characters: Desdemona (speaker), Iago
Page Number: 2.1.158-159
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Her eye must be fed."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Desdemona
Page Number: 2.1.246
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, scene 3 Quotes
"Haply, for I am black
And have not those soft parts of conversation
That chamberers have, or for I am declined
Into the vale of years – yet that's not much –
She's gone."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Desdemona
Page Number: 3.3.304-3.3.308
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
"Her honor is an essence that's not seen;
They have it very oft that have it not."
Related Characters: Iago (speaker), Desdemona
Related Symbols: The Handkerchief
Page Number: 4.1.20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 4, scene 2 Quotes
"Upon my knee, what doth your speech import?
I understand a fury in your words
But not the words."
Related Characters: Desdemona (speaker), Othello
Page Number: 4.2.37-39
Explanation and Analysis:

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"O thou weed
Who art so lovely fair, and smell'st so sweet,
That the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst never been born"
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Desdemona
Page Number: 4.2.77-80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, scene 2 Quotes
"Put out the light, and then put out the light.
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me; but once put out thy light,
Thou cuning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have plucked thy rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again;
It must needs wither."
Related Characters: Othello (speaker), Desdemona
Page Number: 5.2.7-16
Explanation and Analysis:

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Desdemona Character Timeline in Othello

The timeline below shows where the character Desdemona appears in Othello. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
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...Roderigo has paid Iago a lot of money to help him win the hand of Desdemona. Yet he has just learned that Desdemona has eloped with Othello, the Moorish (North African)... (full context)
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Iago and Roderigo go to the house of Brabantio, a senator and Desdemona's father. They shout from the street that Brabantio has been robbed. Brabantio comes to the... (full context)
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Brabantio emerges from his house without finding Desdemona. Furious, lamenting his life as wasted, he says that his daughter has been stolen by... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
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...Othello that Brabantio is likely to try to legally force a divorce between Othello and Desdemona. Othello seems unconcerned. (full context)
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...he has dutifully served the state of Venice and his conscience is clean: he loves Desdemona. (full context)
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...Roderigo along with Brabantio and his men arrive. Brabantio states that Othello must have enchanted Desdemona, or else why would she have gone "to the sooty bosom of such a thing... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
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...otherwise have considered. The Duke promises to help Brabantio prosecute the man who has seduced Desdemona, but when he learns that the accused man is Othello he gives Othello a chance... (full context)
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Othello admits that he married Desdemona. But he denies using any magic to win her love, and says that Desdemona will... (full context)
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Desdemona arrives. Brabantio asks his daughter to whom she owes obedience. Desdemona responds that just as... (full context)
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...must go to Cyprus to lead its defense. Though the Duke at first suggests that Desdemona stay in Venice with her father, Brabantio, Othello, and Desdemona all object, and the Duke... (full context)
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Brabantio exits, but not before warning Othello to watch Desdemona—since she disobeyed her father, she might disobey her husband. (full context)
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Because Othello must leave for Cyprus that night, he decides that Desdemona should follow after him in the care of Iago, and asks Iago to have his... (full context)
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Iago and Roderigo are left alone. Roderigo, convinced his chances with Desdemona are now hopelessly lost, talks of drowning himself. Iago mocks Roderigo for such silly sentimentality.... (full context)
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...money, and decides that he will convince Othello that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona, and in so doing also get the position of lieutenant. He adds that Othello has... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
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The Venetian ship carrying Desdemona, Iago, Emilia (Iago's wife), and Roderigo is the next to arrive. As soon as they... (full context)
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As they wait for Othello to arrive, Iago and Desdemona banter. Iago portrays all women, whether beautiful, ugly, smart, or foolish, as generally deceptive and... (full context)
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Cassio, courteous as always, takes Desdemona's hand and speaks with her privately for a moment. Iago notices, and says that this... (full context)
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Othello arrives, in triumph. He is overjoyed to see Desdemona, and says that he is so happy and content he could die now. She responds... (full context)
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Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is bound to tire of Othello, and want instead someone younger, more handsome, and better-mannered.... (full context)
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In fact, Iago says, Desdemona already loves Cassio, and he asks if Roderigo noticed them touching hands. Roderigo did, but... (full context)
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...his second soliloquy. He says that he thinks it likely that Cassio does indeed love Desdemona, and believable at least that she might love him. He says that he himself loves... (full context)
Act 2, scene 3
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...to do, but that he will make sure to see to it himself. Othello and Desdemona leave to consummate their marriage. (full context)
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When Othello and Desdemona are gone, Iago praises Desdemona's beauty while also slyly suggesting that she might be a... (full context)
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...that he loves Cassio as well, but that he must dismiss Cassio as an officer. Desdemona arrives, awakened by the noise. Othello leads her back to bed, and also promises to... (full context)
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...to ask Othello to return him to his position. Iago, however, counsels him to approach Desdemona for help. Desdemona is so kind and generous, and Othello so in love with her,... (full context)
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...which he says that his advice to Cassio is actually good advice, and that enlisting Desdemona's help is the best way for Cassio to regain his position. But he adds that... (full context)
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...himself beaten by Cassio and given Iago almost all his money, but does not have Desdemona. Iago tells him to be patient, notes that Cassio has already been removed as an... (full context)
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...plan: he will get his wife to set up a private meeting between Cassio and Desdemona, then make sure that Othello observes this meeting. (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
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Emilia enters, and tells Cassio that Othello and Desdemona have been talking about his situation. Desdemona spoke strongly in his favor. Othello responded that... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
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Desdemona, Cassio, and Emilia enter. Desdemona assures Cassio that she will help him regain his position.... (full context)
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When Othello reaches Desdemona, she asks him to reinstate Cassio. Othello promises to do so soon, but won't give... (full context)
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...so honest, but in the process plants the idea of an affair between Cassio and Desdemona in Othello's mind. (full context)
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...dangers of "the green-eyed monster" (3.3.165-7) of jealousy, while at the same time noting that Desdemona did successfully deceive her father. Othello claims not to be jealous; though it is obvious... (full context)
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Iago exits. Othello, alone, now voices worry that perhaps it's unrealistic for him to expect Desdemona to love him when he is black, not well mannered, and considerably older than she... (full context)
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Desdemona and Emilia enter to tell Othello it is time for dinner. Desdemona tries to soothe... (full context)
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...Iago by the throat, and commands him to come up with "ocular proof" (3.3.360) that Desdemona has been unfaithful or else be punished for causing Othello such emotional pain. (full context)
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Iago responds that it's probably impossible to actually catch Desdemona and Cassio in the act of infidelity, but that he can provide circumstantial evidence. He... (full context)
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...Iago cautions Othello that it was just Cassio's dream and may not signify anything about Desdemona's faithfulness. Then Iago asks whether Othello once gave Desdemona a handkerchief with strawberries embroidered on... (full context)
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...out in aguish, then kneels and vows that he will take revenge on Cassio and Desdemona. Iago kneels and vows as well. Othello makes Iago his new lieutenant. (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
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In her quarters, Desdemona sends the clown to tell Cassio she has made entreaties on his behalf to Othello,... (full context)
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When the clown exits, Desdemona wonders what has happened to her handkerchief. Emilia, who is also present, says she doesn't... (full context)
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Othello enters. He takes Desdemona's hand, and notes that it is moist. When Desdemona tries to bring up Cassio's suit,... (full context)
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Uncomfortable, Desdemona says she doesn't have the handkerchief with her, but that it isn't lost. When Othello... (full context)
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Iago and Cassio enter. Cassio asks about his suit, but Desdemona tells him that he must be patient—for some reason Othello seems not himself and her... (full context)
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Desdemona surmises that Othello's bad temper must arise from some affair of state. Emilia wonders again... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
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...Othello, then lets slip that Cassio has actually told him that he has slept with Desdemona. Othello grows frantic, almost incoherent, then falls into an epileptic fit. (full context)
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...says that he will get Cassio to talk about the details of his affair with Desdemona, and that Othello should hide and watch Cassio’s face during the conversation. Othello hides. (full context)
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...promises to kill Cassio. But it is less easy for him to think about killing Desdemona. He keeps remembering what a kind, beautiful, talented, and delicate person she is. But Iago... (full context)
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Just then, Desdemona enters with Lodovico, an envoy who is carrying orders from the Duke of Venice that... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
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Othello questions Emilia, who insists that nothing has happened between Desdemona and Cassio. He orders her to go get Desdemona. Othello assumes that Emilia is helping... (full context)
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Emilia returns with Desdemona. Othello sends Emilia outside to guard the door. Othello than says he could have handled... (full context)
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Desdemona asks Emilia to fetch Iago, whom Desdemona then questions about Othello's behavior. Emilia thinks that... (full context)
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Roderigo enters, angry that he still does not have Desdemona despite all the jewels he's given to Iago to pass on to her. He says... (full context)
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...that he's been working diligently on Roderigo's behalf and can promise that Rodrigo will have Desdemona by the following night. He then tells Roderigo about Cassio being promoted by the Duke... (full context)
Act 4, scene 3
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After supper, Othello invites Lodovico on a walk. Before leaving, he orders Desdemona to go directly to bed and to dismiss Emilia. Emilia helps Desdemona prepare for bed.... (full context)
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Desdemona then asks Emilia whether she would commit adultery. Emilia responds that woman are just like... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
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...killed Cassio. Moved by Iago's loyalty to him, Othello steels himself to go and kill Desdemona in her bed. (full context)
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...then exits, sent by Iago to bring news of what has happened to Othello and Desdemona. (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
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Othello enters Desdemona's quarters, holding a candle. Standing over Desdemona as she sleeps, he admires her beauty, kisses... (full context)
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Just then, Desdemona wakes. She calls out to Othello, who answers, and then tells her to pray in... (full context)
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Emilia calls from the doorway. Othello mistakes her calls as noises made by Desdemona, and smothers Desdemona again. (full context)
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...is Emilia who is calling. He draws the curtains back around the bed to hide Desdemona's body. Then he goes to speak with Emilia, expecting her to tell him of Cassio's... (full context)
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Emilia opens the curtains and to her horror sees Desdemona, who with her dying breaths says that she is innocent, but then denies that she... (full context)
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...almost proudly) admits that he killed her for being unfaithful to him. Emilia denies that Desdemona was ever false to him, but Othello counters that it was "honest, honest Iago" (5.2.156)... (full context)
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Montano, Graziano, and Iago enter. Othello admits once more, this time to Graziano, Desdemona's uncle, that he smothered Desdemona. Graziano is shocked, and says that it is a good... (full context)
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...Iago while Graziano stays to guard the door. Othello is left with the body of Desdemona and the dying Emilia. Emilia sings a verse of the song "Willow," and dies while... (full context)
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...searches his chamber and finds a sword. Graziano enters to find Othello armed and mourning Desdemona. Moments later Lodovico and Montano enter with Iago, whom they've captured. Cassio also enters, carried... (full context)
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...takes out a hidden dagger and stabs himself. He falls onto the bed next to Desdemona and dies while giving her a final kiss. (full context)