Othello: Sexual Disfunction

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 765
  • Published : May 4, 2011
Open Document
Text Preview
Othello is one of the most extraordinary characters in all of Shakespeare's dramas. He enjoyed unheralded success on the battlefield, which gave him the reputation as one of Venice's most able generals. The Moor's military proficiency placed him in a class by himself in the same way his ethnicity distinguished him from his Venetian counterparts. These are two highly identifiable characteristics of Othello. But a much lesser discussed issue of the Moor was his sexual disorder - impotency. There is much evidence in the drama to support the idea that Othello was impotent in both sexual and social relationships. Othello's sexual impotence stifled the consummation of his marriage to Desdemona as the two never experienced sexual intimacy. His sexual disorder then sparked a social impotence: powerlessness in dealing with his wife and friends. In terms of shaping the final events of the drama, Othello's impotency played an even more vital role than his military might or Moorish heritage. Throughout Othello, there is evidence suggesting that Othello and his wife Desdemona never consummated their marriage. Shortly after murdering his wife, he remarked, "cold, cold my girl?/Even in thy Chastity" (V.ii.273-4). The final word Æ chastity - brings what actually transpired in their bedroom into serious question. By referring to Desdemona as chaste, Othello was divulging that he and his wife never had sexual intercourse? Other passages from the play indicate that this is indeed the case. Upon his arrival at the citadel in Cyprus, Othello invited his wife to their room for the second time with the following utterance:

Come, my dear love
The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue, That profit's yet to come 'tween me and you (II.iii.8-10).

In these lines the reader learns that intercourse did not take place on the their wedding night in Venice. The word "purchase" refers to Othello's acquisition of Desdemona by means of the wedding itself and the phrase "fruits are to ensue" symbolizes the "sweetness" of sexual pleasure that was presumably forthcoming that night in Cyprus. Line 10 establishes that this fruit or "profit" of pleasure as "yet to come," so one can conclude that their only other night spent together - their wedding night - did not contain such profits. The fruits of Othello and Desdemona's second evening together were equally nonexistent. Shortly after the two retired in an attempt to finally consummate their marriage, Othello was interrupted by shouts of the fight. The Moor then made a conscious choice to leave the bed and investigate the fight in the street. Neither lago, Rodrigo, nor Montano entered the chamber to summon Othello to restore order; the general did so purely on his own. And since the Moor was not obligated to leave the chamber, it would seem that nothing was occurring in the bedroom to maintain his interests. After Othello restored order, Desdemona appeared in the street to inquire about these events. Othello was quite surprised to see her and said "look if my gentle love be not raised up" (II.iii.248). "Raised up" often is used as a synonym for awaken. If Desdemona was sleeping, then she and her husband were not sharing the experience of sexual intercourse. Therefore, the first evening in Cyprus did not include a consummation of marriage between the Moor and Desdemona. Othello and Desdemona never made love; the "profits" were never collected. Othello and his wife never had sexual intercourse, but such a conclusion does not mean that both lacked a desire to do so. Desdemona and Othello genuinely loved each other, which is largely supported by their rebellious choice to marry. Desdemona faced a tremendous amount of opposition from her father. But she instead decided that a life with Othello was worth the pain and strife of abandoning her parent. Both Desdemona and Othello also publicly expressed their love for each other. Othello proclaims, "She loved me for the dangers I had passed/ And I loved her...
tracking img