It’s easy to reduce Othello and Desdemona’s failed marriage to Iago’s scheming and Othello’s jealousy. But the rules of choosing and keeping a wife were slightly different in the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Alexander Niccholes outlines many of these rules in his 1615 book, A Discourse of Marriage and Wiving, and of the Greatest Mystery therein contained: How to Choose a Good Wife from a Bad. In this discussion board we’ll examine the marriage relationships in Othello, which was written around 1603, with an eye toward these standards.

To begin, read this chapter from Niccholes’ book: “Certain Precepts to be Observed either in Wiving or Marriage.” As you do, circle or make note of at least two rules that apply to Othello and Desdemona’s relationship and at least one that applies to Iago and Emilia’s relationship. Once you’ve done this, turn to Othello and record specific evidence of each precept in the play and a brief (at least 50 word) explanation of how that precept seems to influence each marriage relationship. 

For your initial post in this discussion, list each precept, the evidence you found to illustrate its presence in the play, and your explanation of how that precept influences each marriage. (It’s fine to do this in a numbered list.) Once you’ve made your initial post on the Marriage, Wiving, Othello page on G+, comment on at least three other posts with replies of at least 50 words, asking questions of your peers and/or seeking to make connections among what they’ve said, your experience, and the unit reading.


(Adapted from “How to choose a good Wife from a bad…”: Were Othello and Desdemona doomed from the start? by Annmarie Kelly Harbaugh.)