March 3, 2021

Vogel’s Desdemona: The Presence of Men Among Women

In Desdemona a Play About a Handkerchief, men aren’t physically present, but their presence still exists within the play. In scene 1 men aren’t present but their presence is established through Desdemona throwing a man’s undergarment over her shoulder while searching for her missing handkerchief.  There are many instances of women defining themselves/each other through their relationships with men. However, the very first two that occur in the play stand out.  On page 6-7 Emilia brings up Desdemona’s father and her marriage to Othello. Emilia reminds Desdemona of when her father “the Senator” gave her pearls. She tells Desdemona how she broke the pearls and how she and the other servants had to clean up the pearls. Desdemona’s relationship to her father is what sets her a part from Emilia. Including this in the play establishes early on that Desdemona is of a higher social status than Emilia. Mentioning the fact that Desdemona’s father is the senator seems very important because Emilia could’ve said your father. However, it seems to be necessary to emphasize the class difference between Emilia and Desdemona. Emilia goes on to tell Desdemona, “But you’re a married lady now; and when m’lord Othello gives you a thing, and tells you to be mindin’ it, it’s no longer dear to drop it willy nilly […] (Vogel, 7). Although Desdemona ignores Emilia and refers to the handerkerchief as a “crappy little snot rag” (Vogel, 7) her actions are in accordance with what Emilia says. She continues searching frantically for the “crappy little snot rag” and even gets upset that Emilia isn’t helping her look for it. Desdemona’s actions reveal that she feels inclined to take care of the handerkerchief because it was given to her by her husband Othello. This implies that  women feel they must do certain things as wives even if they find it minuscule.



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