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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 #1

Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves!
Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags!
Thieves, thieves! (1.1.86-88)

Iago's looking to stir up trouble for Othello when he awakens Brabantio with the news that Othello has eloped with Desdemona. But why does he say "thieves" are the problem? As Brabantio's unmarried daughter, Desdemona is basically considered her father's property. Since she's married Othello without dad's permission, Iago suggests that Othello has stolen her from Brabantio. Be sure to also check out Act One, Scene Two, where Brabantio shouts at Othello, "O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter (1.2.62). Check out our "Quotes" for "Marriage" if you want to think about this some more.

Quote #2

Zounds, sir, you're robbed. For shame, put on your
Your heart is burst. You have lost half your soul.
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.
Arise, I say! (1.1.94-101)

There's that reference to Brabantio being "robb'd" again. As we pointed out in the previous passage, Iago suggests that Desdemona's elopement is a kind of theft. What's interesting to us about this passage, however, is that Iago plays on fears of miscegenation (when interracial couples "intermix" via sex and/or marriage) when he says an "old black ram" (Othello) is "tupping" (sleeping with) Brabantio's "white ewe" (Desdemona). (By the way, a "ewe" is a lamb, so there's a suggestion that Desdemona's white skin makes her pure.) Iago's vivid and crude description of the lovemaking between a black man and a white woman is meant to scare Brabantio into thinking that Desdemona's lamb-like purity and whiteness are being contaminated and compromised by her sexual relationship with a black man. Not only that, Iago suggests that Othello is a "devil" that will make Brabantio the "grandsire" of black (like the devil) babies.

Quote #3

My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs.
She swore, in faith, twas strange, 'twas passing
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful.
She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished
That heaven had made her such a man. She thanked
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them. (1.3.182-194)

Here, Othello explains that Desdemona fell in love with him while listening to his life stories – romantic tales of travel, adventure, and danger. When Othello recalls that Desdemona said "she wish'd that heaven had made her such a man," we can interpret the line in a couple of ways. On the one hand, it seems pretty obvious that Desdemona wishes heaven "had made such a man" for her to marry, especially given the fact that she suggests that Othello's stories could "woo" her. At the same time, we can read the line to mean that Desdemona wishes heaven had literally made her a man (instead of a woman). Desdemona's the kind of girl who craves action and adventure and she's not content to sit at home. Think, for example, of the fact that she'd rather go to war (1.3.255) right alongside Othello, who lovingly calls Desdemona his "fair warrior" when she shows up in Cyprus ( Bet you're wondering what the heck happens to this bold, adventurous girl between the time she married Othello and the time she rather passively allows her husband to strangle her. Check out our "Character Analysis" of Desdemona if you want to think about this some more.

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