In Shakespeare's Othello, would the murder of Desdemona be a "cold blooded murder"? When looking up the meaning of a cold blooded murder I find it means that the murder was premeditated or deliberate. Which it was. But I also find it means that the killing was done without any feelings of emotion. Which is contrary to what Othello feels. So is the murder of Desdemona a cold blooded murder? and Why?

  • I was thinking of this as Othello being the murderer Dec 10, 2015 at 2:13
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    The metaphor cold blooded is intentionally set in contrast to in the heat of the moment or "crimes of passion" (passion being hot blooded, i.e. worked up).
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 10, 2015 at 2:25
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    @DanBron- I agree; the murder of Desdemona by Othello was an act of hot passion. Iago, on the other hand, might well be described as cold-blooded. Dec 10, 2015 at 3:22

2 Answers 2


To do something in cold blood is to do it dispassionately and without emotion. It implies more than just premeditation, but also planning, careful preparation, and a lack of remorse. The origin seems to come from early medicine, when blood was believed to change temperature based on emotional state. We still say that a person who remains calm in a tense situation has 'kept their cool', or remained 'cool-headed' - it comes from the same source.

The opposite is to do something in hot blood - rashly, impulsively, and under the influence of intense emotion. While you won't often hear someone say that a person "was killed in hot blood" any more, though that was in use in the past, but we do say that an emotional or agitated conversation is 'heated', or that a person who is angry or sexually aroused is 'hot under the collar'.

It's also worth noting that the expression can sometimes be almost literal. There is a physiological correlation between skin temperature and heart rate - the faster your heart is beating, the hotter you feel. Since the heart rate increases when one is agitated, one often feels physically cooler when one is calm, and hotter when one is emotional.

To get back to the question, then - while Othello has certainly gone there with the intention to kill Desdemona, the murder itself takes place during an argument, both of them acting emotionally. If Othello had simply smothered her before she woke, then the act would probably be seen as cold-blooded; is it is, it certainly was not.


It cannot be called cold blooded murder. That would be the situation when someone with no feelings in his heart for the victim commits the murder.

However, in the current situation, it is Othello's intense feelings for Desdemona that make him do it. So, when a lover kills his beloved, it is not cold blooded murder at all, but is hot blooded murder. "Cold blooded murder" would have been the case had Iago murdered her. Othello, on the other hand, meant no mischief; he was forced to murder her, for he could not bear being a cuckold. So, circumstances prove that Othello did not do it deliberately but because only in her death could he find solace.

If Desdemona lived, it would have made him feel worse. Cold blooded murder is where your intention is maximum damage and you have planned your steps well. Othello had simply lost his mind; no chances of planning and so on. He is just taking his romance to its nemesis. Desdemona met an undeserved fate

  • Can you please add support to your claim of the definition of "cold blooded murder"? Maybe a link to support your definition?
    – Hank
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:38

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