Dear Desdemona

by Helen Holmes

Dear Desdemona,

I’ll start by saying how gutted I am that you came to such a sticky end, well not sticky so much as stuffy, but you know what I mean. Irritating as you were at times, you certainly didn’t deserve the pillow treatment. What an idiot Othello was (brains in his breeches, or what?) to be taken in by that manipulative little maggot Iago, who wouldn’t be out of place in EastEnders. It makes you wonder how your old man managed to organise all those successful military campaigns, though, doesn’t it, being that gullible? Terrible tragedy, the whole thing – nearly as many dead bodies as a Kathy Reichs…or, well, Hamlet, come to think of it.

I am a bit confused by your behaviour, though, dear. I thought you started off on a high, standing up to your old Dad like that and insisting on marrying the man you loved – very bold and brave. Why you were so smitten is a different question, but love moves in mysterious ways, as they say, and we all make mistakes. Othello always struck me as a bit of a rough diamond, but he obviously had the gift of the gab, and I know some girls fancy a father-figure. Nobody would mess with him down the tavern on a Friday night, for sure. I like big strong types, myself – make you feel safe, don’t they? Bit ironic, that, as things turned out.

Anyway, I don’t understand why you didn’t stand up for yourself more once you’d got hitched. You can’t convince me that you suddenly morphed into the proverbial shrinking violet. Look at all that cheeky banter with Iago in the second Act; and that bit in the third where you’re pleading with Othello on Cassio’s behalf (big mistake that, under the circs, but you weren’t to know, in fairness). But when you really needed to stick up for yourself, when it was obvious to any passing whelk-seller that hubby was turning into a homicidal maniac, you came over all limp. Well, wimp, really (no offence).

Take the lost handkerchief – talk about a storm in a teacup. But then you only went and made things worse by telling porkies and pretending the stupid thing hadn’t gone AWOL. It beats me why you couldn’t just have said to your feller, “For Heaven’s sake, babe, chill out. Stop banging on about that ruddy handkerchief. It’s gone walkabout. I’m sorry – it was a classy hanky, I know, but worse things happen at sea. Get over it. The cat probably ate it. What do you want me to do, kill myself?” Well OK, maybe not the last bit, but you get the general idea, the tone. Less of the snivelling wifey, more of the “I can’t believe you’re making all this fuss over a nose-rag.” Pity Kleenex hadn’t been invented, that’s all I can say.

And what about the death scene? What was all that about? When, aeons after everybody else, you eventually twigged that your big man suspected you of being a slapper and was likely to snuff you out, what did you do? Did you head for the hills? Did you barricade the door? Did you even hide under the bed? Oh no, not dozy Des. You put your wedding sheets on the bed and prepared for sacrifice. How feeble is that? Why on earth couldn’t you have had it out with the guy? Something like, “Sweetheart, there seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding. I have (finally, and I’m truly sorry for having been so unbelievably slow) caught up with the plot. It seems that you think there is Another Man. I can assure you that you are the only star in my firmament and that I would no more consider having it off with that scrawny young Cassio than wearing pink nylon pyjamas. I bet that grumpy old git Iago has been winding you up again – I’ve been hearing all about him from Emilia and, trust me, he is Not What He Seems.”

Have you got the drift, Des? What it boils down to is that all that death and destruction could have been avoided if only you’d been just a teeny bit more assertive here and there. Lower body count; audience happy; tragedy averted. This may be worth bearing in mind for future incarnations. I hope you don’t object to my giving you the benefit of my experience – after all, we girls have got to stick together.

Kindest regards


Helen Holmes lives in rural Northumberland and writes fiction and non-fiction.

  1. #1 by thepygmygiant on August 28, 2009 - 11:23 pm

    I luv this.
    And there are other dim Shakespeare characters where Des came from… considered starting an agony aunt column for them? :) Mel

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