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Othello Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #10

I had been happy, if the general camp,
Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
So I had nothing known. O, now, for ever
Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars
That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th' ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
The immortal Jove's dead clamors counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone! (3.3.397-409)

Because Othello (mistakenly) believes Desdemona has cheated on him, Othello feels like he can't be a soldier any more. All the manly, warlike things – military music, thrusting cannons, and big wars – are denied him; he is convinced that he has lost his masculine, soldier identity. What's up with that? Does he say this because he feels that he has been emasculated? Because he believes that his credibility as a military leader has been compromised? Or, is he suggesting that he is so distraught by Desdemona's supposed affair that he will never find pleasure in the things he once loved (being a military man)? Something else?

Quote #11

I will chop her into messes! Cuckold me? (4.1.219)

Othello is filled with rage at the idea that Desdemona has made him a "cuckold" (a man whose wife has cheated on him). To be a "cuckold" was a shameful thing in Elizabethan society and meant that a husband's masculinity had been destroyed.

Quote #12

Had it pleased heaven
To try me with affliction, had they rained
All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steeped me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes,
I should have found in some place of my soul
A drop of patience. But alas, to make me
A fixed figure for the time of scorn
To point his slow unmoving finger at— (4.2.57-65)

Othello tells Desdemona that the worst thing about her cheating on him is that it makes him become a ridiculous figure – the cheated-on husband, one that people will just laugh at. (We know, of course, that Othello is wrong about Desdemona's supposed infidelity.) It seems like Othello isn't so much "heartbroken" by the idea that his wife has been unfaithful as he is embarrassed and ashamed.

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