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Othello Marriage Quotes

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

Quote #1

O, thou foul thief, where hast thou stowed my
   daughter? (1.2.80-81)

When Brabantio confronts Othello for eloping with Desdemona (without his permission), he accuses his new son-in-law of being a "foul thief," as if Desdemona is piece of property that has been unlawfully taken away from him. We see this same attitude earlier in the play when Iago awakens Brabantio in the middle of the night proclaiming loudly "Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves! / Look to your house, your daughter and your bags! / Thieves! thieves!" (1.1.80-82). What's up with that?

History Snack: It turns out that it's pretty common in Shakespeare's plays (and sixteenth-to-seventeenth-century England in general) for daughters to be considered their father's property – unmarried women are often portrayed as something to be stolen, bartered for and/or traded by men. In The Taming of the Shrew, for example, when Baptista Minola bargains with his daughter's suitor, he treats Bianca like a possession and even refers to himself as a "merchant" who is undertaking a risky business deal (The Taming of the Shrew, 2.1.22).

Quote #2

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 curlèd darlings of our nation,
Would ever have, to incur a general mock,
Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom
Of such a thing as thou—to fear, not to delight!
Judge me the world, if 'tis not gross in sense
That thou hast practiced on her with foul charms,
Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals
That weaken motion. (1.2.82-94)

Brabantio insists that Othello must have "enchanted" Desdemona – why else, asks Brabantio, would she run away from all the (white) eligible bachelors in Venice into the "sooty bosom" of the "Moor"? (Pretty obnoxious, wouldn't you say?) Brabantio's objection to his daughter's marriage to a black man gives voice to fears of miscegenation (when interracial couples marry/have sex, etc., resulting in "mixed race" children).

Quote #3

I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets
'Has done my office. I know not if't be true,
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. (1.3.429-433)

We discuss this passage in "Jealousy," but it's important to the theme of marriage as well. Here, Iago suggests that his wife, Emilia, has cheated on him with Othello. Now, we know this is completely untrue. What we don't know is whether or not Iago actually believes that Othello has slept with Emilia. As we know, Iago lists multiple (and incompatible) motives for seeking to destroy Othello (elsewhere, he says he hates Othello because he was passed up for a promotion), so it's entirely possible that Iago's the one who makes up the rumor about Othello and Emilia. On the other hand, most men in the play assume that all women are promiscuous and unfaithful in general, so it's not so surprising that Iago would believe Emilia has been untrue.

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