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Shakespeare's portrayal of marriage is pretty bleak in Othello. The play begins with a conflict between Desdemona's husband and her father, who sees his daughter's elopement as a kind of theft of his personal property. The play's two wives (Desdemona and Emilia) are both unfairly accused of infidelity, and both wives are murdered by their abusive husbands. More famously, perhaps, is the way Shakespeare examines sixteenth-century anxieties about interracial couplings – in Othello, the marriage of a black man and a white woman allows Shakespeare to explore attitudes about race and gender.
Questions About Marriage
- How are marriages portrayed in Othello? Are there any happy marriages in the play? Why or why not?
- Why does Iago say Othello may have had an affair with Emilia?
- Why does Othello suspect Desdemona of being unfaithful? Does he have any concrete evidence to support his suspicions?
- Discuss why Brabantio objects to Desdemona's elopement with Othello.
Chew on This
In Othello, marriage is tantamount to death.
Othello suggests that, as long as men view women as being promiscuous and disloyal, the institution of marriage is doomed.