In Charles Dickens’s The Bloomsbury Christening, when Dumps is frantically looking for the mug that he bought and lost for his nephew, there is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Othello. Dumps was “speaking in a voice like Desdemona with the pillow over her mouth” (Dickens 72). In the footnotes, it says that Othello suffocates his wife, Desdemona, with a pillow. After reading this, I felt intrigued and wanted further contextualization—both because I felt it would further illustrate the character Dumps and his personality and because I was interested in this reference to another story.
I am sure that some (or maybe most) students are aware of the story of Desdemona and what themes it suggests, but I have not read Othello and was glad that I had read all of the footnotes because I believe I would be losing meaning to the story if I merely read over this reference not knowing what it meant. Whenever there is a link in one literary work to another, I feel it is important to know why this connection has been made. I think that understanding who Desdemona is and what she symbolizes adds knowledge to the character of Dumps and provides further insight to who he is and how he functions in Dickens’s story. It is also just an interesting and hilarious depiction of his character.
The Oxford Dictionary refers to Othello as a play of jealousy being a tragic flaw. In the end, Othello doubts his wife’s faithfulness and believes she is an adulteress; this jealousy turns him into a monster, claiming that Desdemona betrayed him. The enchanted Desdemona, which causes her to fall in love with Othello, is beaten and smothered by her husband. “Disdemona” means “unfortunate” in Greek—another interesting side note to this allusion. The character Dumps is unfortunate himself; in this specific instance of losing the mug and in his life in general. Later in the same paragraph of The Bloomsbury Christening, Dumps exclaims, “I was born to suffer” (Dickens 72). After being compared to Desdemona and from knowing her fate, this exaggeration from Dumps is quite satirical. From researching the story behind Desdemona, Dickens’s style is clear and now has more depth that what I first realized.
Jonathan Morley ”Othello.” The Oxford Companion to Black British History. Ed David Dabydeen, John Gilmore, and Cecily Jones. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Missouri – Columbia. 17 February 2011. <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t240.e313>
Shakespeare, William. “Othello in Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.” Literature Online URL: 1994. 15 February 2011. <http://proxy.mul.missouri.edu:2154/searchFulltext.do?id=Z100118682&divLevel=1&queryId=../session/1297959226_3907&trailId=12D99E744BF&area=Drama&forward=textsFT&warn=Yes&size=297Kb>