In Shakespearian times, it was very unusual to see people of other races as Britain was predominantly white. At the time, women were made to marry whatever man her father chose for her and this was usually someone of the same class or above. People frowned upon those who married below their status and who married someone of a different race as it was seen as a sin against God. In ‘Othello’, Desdemona and Othello go against this. Desdemona marries a black man who is not the same class as her and without her father’s consent. A Shakespearian audience would have found this shocking.
As soon as Othello enters in Act 1 Scene 3, the Duke calls Othello ‘Valiant’. This does not suggest that the Duke thinks of him any less because of his marriage or race and suggests that the Duke has a lot of respect for him. This is contradictory to the opinion of Brabantio who states that Othello has ‘abused, stolen and corrupted’ his daughter ‘by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks’. He also states that his daughter could not have been won over naturally, ‘sans witchcraft could not’. The idea that witchcraft and spells have been used suggests that their marriage is unnatural and evil seeing as witches were seen as evil.
It also shows that Brabantio does not seem to know much about Othello or his daughter. He believes Othello is a demon or warlock and believes that his daughter would not have been so stupid to marry Othello. Desdemona loves Othello so married him for that reason and she knew that her father would not like it which is why she married him secretly. The Duke asks who took his daughter from him as he believes it is a sin, but when he realises it is Othello who has done this, he changes his opinion. He knows Othello better than Brabantio does.
In Othello’s next speech, he speaks in blank verse which shows his importance as Shakespeare used blank verse to show the audience his really important and higher status characters. This is the complete opposite to Brabantio’s view of him. He is not a warlock or demon, which gypsies and lower classes were sometimes viewed as, he is an important figurehead. Othello talks as if he is a noble and tells everyone about his marriage to Desdemona and how he loved her and won her without the use of witchcraft and spells. Everyone apart from Brabantio believes this stating ‘spirit’, ‘hell’, ‘blood’ and ‘dram’ which suggest evil.
Brabantio seems to generally believe that Othello, because of his colour, is evil. He refers to him as a Turk which also could be seen as evil as it is the Turks that they are fighting. Brabantio could be suggesting that because of his colour and actions he is no better than those Turks that they are fighting. The audience learn that Brabantio has seen and spoken to Othello and has very often invited him round for dinner where he allowed Othello to tell his stories of his adventures. Brabantio was quite happy to let Othello see Desdemona until he wanted to marry her, then he was not so pleased.
Othello tells them that it is these stories that Desdemona fell in love with, which does not suggest evil and unnaturalness at all. Brabantio calls for his daughter believing that she will tell them all how Othello tricked her into marrying him, however she does not do this, she tells them all how she loves him. It is here when Brabantio realises how stupid he has been and apologises to everyone. He does not believe anyone else except his daughter that their marriage is not unnatural or evil; it is a marriage of love. The Duke agrees with this and states ‘your son-in-law is much fairer than black.
This suggests that the Duke believes he is loyal and loving and views him in the same way as he views someone of white skin. It is not just Brabantio who believes that Othello’s marriage to Desdemona is evil and unnatural. It becomes clear to the audience that Iago dislikes Othello but the reasons remain confused. The reasons could be that he is jealous of him and the fact that he gave Cassio a higher status than him, however it could also be because of his race that he dislikes him and because of that thinks he is evil. However, what Iago does to Othello could be seen as the evil in his relationship with Desdemona.
Iago manipulates Othello into hating Desdemona and mistreating both her and Cassio. His feelings towards her become confused and agonising for him until he can no longer bear it and decides to kill Desdemona. However, one has to ask how Othello was able to believe Iago’s lies and believe that Desdemona would do that to him, considering that they had a good relationship. This leads me to believe that Othello must have been insecure in his marriage with Desdemona perhaps believing that his race made him inferior to her and may cause her to cuckold him and move on to another man.
These insecurities may be the unnatural part of their marriage. The fact that Othello killed Desdemona may also be viewed as the evil in their marriage. Othello may have believed everything that Iago said and may have believed that Desdemona had committed those sins against him, but he did not need to kill her, he could have disbanded her and told her not to come back, but instead he took the view that if he cannot have her, nobody can which is evil and selfish. In conclusion, there is some evidence to suggest that Othello and Desdemona’s marriage is unnatural and evil and should be punished.
Both Othello and Desdemona seem to be punished as they are both killed. However, it could be argued that it was not their marriage that caused this but rather Iago’s manipulation of Othello and everything around him. Therefore it seems that the statement is not completely true. If Iago had not manipulated the events in the play, then Othello and Desdemona may have been happily married, however no-one knows this for sure so it is hard to say one way or the other whether Desdemona and Othello’s marriage was in fact ‘evil and unnatural’.