Feminism in Othello Essay

2162 Words Oct 10th, 2011 9 Pages
Women’s Roles in Othello Shakespearean England was a thoroughly patriarchal society, with very few rights for women. This culture was borne of the perspective that women were of a lower worth in society than men, a view reflected in the treatment of the majority of women by the men in their lives. William Shakespeare wrote many plays about social issues across Europe, and his play Othello was especially focused on the mistreatment of women in England. Though Desdemona and Emilia, the two main female figures in Othello, have horrific deaths, they advance the feminist cause by denying the female stereotypes set by their male counterparts. In Shakespeare’s time, men had particular views on women and Shakespeare shows these views through …show more content…
Desdemona manages to “place outspokenness within the perimeters of appropriate wifely behavior”, saying that opposing her husband is actually aiding him, asserting herself and allowing self-expression “at the expense of male authority”(1D). Even her marriage to Othello can be seen as a need to leave the “preciousness and perhaps effeminacy” of the white men she knows for the danger and adventure that come with Othello (2A). Desdemona is put to the test, however, once Othello begins to believe Iago, apparently sliding into a “fatal passivity”, yet her protests at his slap, the height of public embarrassment, shows her defiance and refusal to be the complying housewife who simply does what she’s told (1E). Even while she falls from the height of her love, Desdemona continues to “mediate further for Cassio”, but “gives up speaking for herself”. This shows how Desdemona may have stopped defying for her own gain, but she still has the power to fight for her beliefs- that what has changed is not her, but in fact the “circumstances which surround her”, and she characteristically refuses to “disturb” the “system”, yet again going undercover (1E). Even at her death Desdemona is strong, ostensibly defending Othello to her own expense, but actually implicating Othello and exonerating herself. Basing her own story on the willow song,
Desdemona “uses the story of her love to render his ‘unkindness’ unquestionable”, showing that she sacrificed herself for his

Related Documents