The Meaning of Love in Othello
The Bible says that 'all else is redundant without love', a most profound and relevant statement underlining the tragedy of Othello; in the absence of love, the Moor's fortunes plummet, so that he loses not only his respect and his posting but his life and that of his wife also. However, to truly understand the depth of this tragedy, it is essential to understand from where Othello, the protagonist, is coming before the arrival of his peripiteia, his falling out of love and into jealousy. It is therefore vital to understand the meaning of love in Othello, not only to fully portray Othello's fall from grace, but to understand many of the actions and views of the other characters in the play. It also enables the reader to understand what Shakespeare is trying to say about the world in general through his use of love.
There are in Othello, as in life, many different types of love, with some characters displaying different sorts of love depending on with whom they are sharing their love. Probably the most obvious love is between Othello and Desdemona, characterised by their happiness to see each other after Othello's separation due to the storm:
Othello: O my fair warrior!
Desdemona: My dear Othello!
Othello: ... O my soul's joy,
If after every tempest come such calms
May the winds blow till they have weakened death.
The emphatic language and hugely powerful imagery (the calm after the storm, the winds blowing until they weaken death, the examples) employed by Othello, as well as the short exclamations on first seeing each other indicate a feeling of true delight to once again be in one another's presence. However, and this is evident in the extract above, Othello and Desdemona, although it is easy to see that they have a deep love for each other, not only express their love in different ways but, in fact, feel their love towards each other differently. Notice that it is only Othello who uses the heightened language, whilst Desdemona refrains from its usage; also, that to Othello, Desdemona is a 'fair warrior' but his use of synonyms is not returned as Desdemona decides to call him, 'My dear Othello', a rather weak compliment in comparison. Both of these incidents point towards Othello being deeply, deeply in love, infatuated with Desdemona and this is backed up throughout the play. His view of love in this instance as an all-consuming, passionate, raging forest fire is implicit through his frequent allusions to sex,
'To please the palate of my appetite
Nor to comply with heat, the young affects
In me defunct, and proper satisfaction',
as well as his use of classical, semi-divine metaphors such as 'feathered Cupid' which show that Othello believes that his love is inescapable; it is favoured by the gods and cannot be separated from for fear of invoking the wrath of the Gods.
Desdemona, on the other hand, gives a much cooler view of love when concerned with Othello....