Magic and Mistrust: Analysis of the Implied Role of Witchcraft in Othello

othello 1
Photo from Wikimedia

Similar to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the opening of Othello pits a disapproving parent against a couple so in love they must elope in secrecy. However, any similarities between Othello and a conventional comedy end there.

Best understood as the intimate portrait of a marriage wrecked by jealous insecurity, Othello resonates as a poignant tragedy illustrating how distrustfulness ultimately leads to self-destruction.  Throughout the story, Shakespeare plays with the audience’s expectations by employing ample foreshadowing to suggest the tragic fall of the titular character. One of the most important instances of this is the implied role of magic in the coercion of Desdemona to elope with “the Moor.”

After hearing his daughter has eloped with his comrade, Brabantio, in utter shock and disgust, issues the allegation that the Moor must have persuaded her to elope under the coercion of magic or spells. He claims his daughter has been stolen from him, abused, “and corrupted by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks; for nature so preposterously to err, being not deficient, blind or lame of sense, sans witchcraft could not” (1.3.62-66).

Continue reading