Othello’s dying words “loved not wisely, but too well” reflect the fated General’s demise in the Venetian military (Shakespeare 148). From the start of the play, Shakespeare portrays Othello as a weak judge of character. The tragic hero is unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy, which heightens his crazy jealousy. His feelings for Desdemona rapidly intensify from a harmless fascination to a deadly experience. He is overcome by intense impulses, which seize control over his thought and reasoning. Othello, who is jealous and outraged, discovers too late that he has no irrefutable proof of Desdemona’s infidelity. It, thus, strikes him that he “loved not wisely, but too well,” a statement that I agree with.
The title character’s description of himself as “one that loved not wisely, but too well,” surmises that Othello’s love was so strong, passionate and fulfilling that he is susceptible to making mistakes (Shakespeare 148). He is presented as a person of action, who more often than not makes quick and illogical decisions. His relationship with his wife was founded on pretense. Furthermore, he has conflicting identities and is self-delusional. Thus, the audience can easily view him as “one that loved not wisely, but too well.” Being a man of action, he is severe in whichever course of action he settles on. Furthermore, as much as he may have a revelation that his course of action may not be the best, Othello still feels bound to a duty to act upon his initial statements, illustrating his prompt nature and resolve.
For instance, he remarks, “Nay, that’s certain; but yet the pity of it, Iago! O, Iago, the pity of it Iago!” he regretfully laments over contemplating on killing Desdemona, but he is still committed to ending his wife’s life (Shakespeare 115). The tragic hero’s incapacity to go against what he considers to be a binding testimonial illustrates his ability to “love too well,” for he is too severe in his engagements that when Othello decides to love Desdemona, he does so with such a strong passion. It is for this reason he is hurt deeply at the thought that his wife could be unfaithful to him. Therefore, Othello loved his wife with the similar passion and commitment that he shows when he has taken a course of action, which is why he “loved her too well.”
Also, Othello “loved not wisely.” He was not able to recognize that his initial love for Desdemona was not sufficient to be sustainable. Concerning the quality of love between the two of them, Othello asserted that “she lov’d me for the dangers I had pass’d, and I lov’d her that she did pity them” (Shakespeare 52). It is proof that he only he was attracted or rather loved his splendor that was mirrored in Desdemona’s eyes and not an intensely, gentle and passionate fondness for each other52). Desdemona was infatuated with the General’s story while Othello was attracted to seeing his grand reflection in the eyes of his wife. Therefore, the fact that they were not in love with each other in the first place suggests that Othello “loved not wisely.” He is delusional as he has created an image for him to be remembered as, with an unavoidable conflict between self-deceit and self-consciousness, proving that did not love wisely.
Othello has also proven to have so many passions that he is devoted to, providing more proof that perhaps he did not love wisely. For instance, he is committed to the state, and that is why he feels Desdemona “must die, else she’ll betray more men (Shakespeare 136). He is also an egocentric man, “the story of my life…the battles, sieges, and fortunes that I have pass’d,” depicts his self-glorification (Shakespeare 51). Lastly, “speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,” indicates his love for repute (Shakespeare 148). Furthermore, he rarely refers to Desdemona by her name, not until she kills her, showing Othello’s desire for conflict, the patriarchy and himself above his wife. His low prioritization of Desdemona depicts that as much as he has ‘loved too well’ by loving too much, Othello is not capable of showing or giving Desdemona much love as he has other commitments and engagements he considers more important than his wife. Besides, the fact that Othello murders Desdemona without tangible proof of infidelity shows that he did not love her wisely. Had he loved her wisely he would have realized that Desdemona was faithful and he only fell prey to Iago’s treachery.
In conclusion, since Othello is prompt and shows unwavering resolve, he is in a capacity to “love too well,” and with extreme vigor. He has conflicting personalities and has many passions, the state, his repute and dedication to the patriarchy, of which he shows affection to, inhibiting him from loving wisely. Also, Desdemona appears to of the lowest priority among his passions and allegiances, resulting in a lack of wisdom for love. Therefore, as much as Othello loved Desdemona “too well,” he “loved not wisely.”
Shakespeare, William. Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Harvard University, 2008.