Othello: The Willow Scene

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This extract takes place after Othello has sent Desdemona away to bed, and she engages in brief but intimate conversation with her servant Emilia. Desdemona is clearly upset with the way she had been treated by Othello, and she sings the 'The Willow Song', an old song about a male lover who lies and causes his lover to weep and sigh. This exchange shows greatly the differences between women, as how Desdemona gets increasingly deluded by her love for Othello, and seems to revert into the role of the traditional woman, and how pragmatic and straight forward Emilia is. Also, it is noted that this is the only scene where its participants are all women and is thus somewhat poignant, showing the only time where these two women are able to express what they truly think and feel in a world so surrounded and controlled by men.

The extract begins by Desdemona mentioning the 'song of the willow' and that she will 'sing it like poor Barbary(her mother's maid)'. This reflects her inner emotions of hurt and betrayal, similar to Barbary's, who had been forsaken by her lover. To sing the song somehow indicates her realisation that their relationship is at the brink of a terrible split, and there is a sense of hopelessness about the situation. As traditional women do, Desdemona weeps at her misfortune but does nothing to change it, reflecting the typical passivity of grief and despair so often portrayed by jilted women in the past. Marriage has apparently softened Desdemona, diminishing what spirit she had earlier in the play, the spirit that made her a rebel, she agreed to a secret marriage and went against the patriarchy, which is hardly the image of a 'proper' woman. This scene however shows very distinctly the side of Desdemona that is very much in love with Othello. She exclaims 'Good troth, I think thou wouldst not' when Emilia says that she would not mind infidelity for

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