Feminism in Othello
Women’s Functions in Othello Shakespearean England was a completely patriarchal society, with really few rights for women. This culture was borne of the viewpoint that ladies were of a lower worth in society than guys, a view shown in the treatment of the majority of women by the men in their lives. William Shakespeare wrote many plays about social concerns throughout Europe, and his play Othello was specifically focused on the mistreatment of ladies in England.
Though Desdemona and Emilia, the two primary 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 specific views on women and Shakespeare shows these views through the speeches of his characters. In Shakespearean society, there were “2 male fantasies” of ladies- one “unfavorable, of the shrew, and the other, the suitable of the submissive subordinate. The submissive subordinate is easily manipulated by men, and never ever does anything to promote her own interests, however while the shrew is oppositely verbally abusive and violates her social restraints by being extremely opinionated, her disobedience just strengthens the unfavorable outlook on ladies at that time. In this method, being an opinionated woman is akin to being party to suppressing feminism, and both classifications of lady have the very same outcome (1C). Iago and Othello both show how a female’s pride is her failure- in Act II sc i, Iago says that “‘she that was ever Boyle 2 air and never happy’ is an uncommon, possibly nonexistent lady”, and this familiar view of ladies as proud and strong enough to be non-traditional enables Othello to become “even more quickly persuaded by Iago” (3A). Iago’s traditional view of male dominance appears to originate from his “little contact with females in the play”. Instead of seeing the true females in front of him, Iago, like Brabantio in Act One Scene I, only sees his “dream”- the dreadful woman represented in his society (5B).
Though Othello “voices clearly a bitter hostility towards women and towards sex”, it likewise “shows … a contrasting view”, one that develops irony in between the women that “compel our admiration partly for their command of the very virtues which Iago and the satirists think them to do not have” (3B). Desdemona, the partner of Othello in the play, is typically portrayed as an angel who could do no incorrect, perhaps in order to show the wrongful monstrosity that is her death to the audience. In any case, Desdemona is seen as the ideal lady, with “courage and dignity”, but not the ability to face her hubby (2D).
She apparently “idealizes Othello” to the point where she “can not acknowledge that he is as vulnerable to impracticality and evil as other males.” (2E). Whereas Emilia “right away thinks that Othello is jealous”, Desdemona can not believe of her partner as anything besides ideal, as any adoring wife needs to (2E). Relatively defending Othello to the very end, Desdemona’s last words are of her hubby’s innocence, revealing that she is a “maiden, never bold”, how the guys of her life see her (1A). She appears in all senses of the word “passive” up until the very end, and remains quiet, never ever blaming her other half (1A).
Even throughout her heart to heart with Emilia in the Willow Song, Desdemona refuses to confess that any female could wrong her other half, because, to Desdemona, that is no spouse at all. While all of these things appear true, Desdemona is a lot more powerful of a character than simply an example of an every-woman for Othello and Iago to sharpen their (figurative) claws on. She is actually “a star, as proficient as Iago”, able to control from within. While she pays regard to her dad, Desdemona’s acts of “disobedience and hybrid” end up being “acceptable” and “anticipated behavior”.
She hides her second side- that of a “completely sexual ‘woman efficient in downright violence'” from all, especially her spouse (1A). If a lady has the ability to hide her real self, she is not resting and taking her lumps- she is working individuals around her, managing her own life, as extremely couple of females dared to do at that time. Desdemona manages to “place outspokenness within the boundaries of suitable wifely behavior”, stating that opposing her spouse is actually assisting him, asserting herself and enabling self-expression “at the expenditure of male authority”(1D).
Even her marriage to Othello can be viewed as a requirement to leave the “preciousness and possibly effeminacy” of the white males she understands for the danger and experience that come with Othello (2A). Desdemona is tested, nevertheless, when Othello starts to believe Iago, apparently sliding into a “fatal passivity”, yet her demonstrations at his slap, the height of public humiliation, shows her defiance and rejection to be the complying housewife who simply does what she’s informed (1E).
Even while she falls from the height of her love, Desdemona continues to “moderate even more for Cassio”, however “quits speaking for herself”. This demonstrates how Desdemona may have stopped defying for her own gain, however she still has the power to eliminate for her beliefs- that what has actually altered is not her, but in reality the “scenarios which surround her”, and she characteristically refuses to “interrupt” the “system”, yet again going undercover (1E). Even at her death Desdemona is strong, ostensibly protecting Othello to her own expense, however really implicating Othello and exonerating herself.
Basing her own story on the willow tune, Desdemona “uses the story of her love to render his ‘unkindness’ unquestionable”, showing that she sacrificed herself for his well-being, therefore she can not really be the beast that he makes her out to be (1G). “In declining to blame her lover”, Desdemona “keeps blame from herself, … her incriminations of him will just cause his recriminations against her”, however “y loyally ‘approving’ his scorn, she appears to be controlled by her other half” exposing the “falseness and vacuity” of his story, much like Barbery in the song (1H).
This is a scene of Desdemona’s last defiance, her braking “through the code of silence anticipated of the dead since women”, “destabilizing the master story”, and requiring Othello to confess to the criminal activity, “undoing himself in order to undo her” (1I). Desdemona is fully in control of herself and her reputation to the very end, even as her world collapses around her, manipulating the males and declining to mold to fit their beliefs. Desdemona is not the only objectified woman in Othello who breaks out of her manufactured box.
Emilia, Desdemona’s friend, could be viewed as “more human” than Desdemona due to the fact that she is less ideal, however she seems to be the Themis of Othello, handling to balance the scales of males and females while bringing justice to the play. Emilia reveals the “common, problematic humankind of men and women”, bringing equality to the genders while at the very same time mediating the characters and the audience by “voicing its ordinary spontaneous ‘low’ responses to the … major characters”.
She is “not too scrupulous to pilfer the scarf, not too pure to use the word ‘whore’… yet it must be noted that in these faults she remains in a twisted way considering her partner’s welfare”, balancing excellent and wicked, ending up being the balance on which the play tilts (5D). Whereas many characters in Othello come full circle (i. e. Desdemona’s pureness) or don’t alter (i. e. Iago’s evil), Emilia “moves from tolerating men’s fancies to exploiting them and from prudent acceptance to bold repudiation”, no longer being the ever-tolerating female, ending up being the holder of the key for flexibility of the ladies in the play (5K).
She transforms from a worm to a martyr, joining the audience in perspective, and discovering to speak up for herself even at the bitter end (4A). Emilia’s “impulse is for fact and for loyalty to the best that she knows … She informs her partner in annoyed love and reality” that she will say what she wants, showing “an unquestioning guts in the face of the swords of both Iago and Othello” (3D). Though she stole the handkerchief for her other half, she did not understand the extent of his evil-doing and was just really trying to be loyal to him in order to get the love that she craved.
This habits, being unknowingly utilized by her partner for his own ends, is certainly characteristic of the lady that the guys want (in order to have control and power), but Emilia, unlike Desdemona, outgrows her innocence by the end of the play. By telling her story, Emilia “passes away without self-justifications or calls for vengeance; instead she testifies to Desdemona’s innocence and love”, being true to her one relationship till the very end (5J). Her story damages Iago, and her disobedience “refutes his approach” that ladies will end up being servants to their males in order to discover love (5J). By picking to speak and serve as she thinks and feels, she attains mental flexibility, liberating herself from societal domination and from her own self-imposed restraints”- where sent to prison, Emilia is silent, but once free she gets life, and therefore speech, ending up being a totally free sincere soul from Iago’s belongings and instrument for evil (4B). This newly found freedom does end quickly, nevertheless, due to the fact that it “repudiates [Iago]’s existence and breaches his psychic being; Iago’s liberty requires dominance and control of others” (4C).
Therefore, when Iago can’t manage Emilia, he can not manage himself for the only time in the play, and stabs her, becoming silent and sent to prison, as Emilia once was (4C). This is symbolic of the function reversal- while Emilia’s silence and ‘effeminacy’ modification to her free choice and control, Iago’s free choice and control become his silence and suppression by others. Emilia ends up being the dominant ‘pants-wearer’ of their relationship, by ending up being the beacon of reality and justice that she ends as. The final female character in the play is Bianca.
While she is “absurd, inarticulate, and absurd”, her incredible “love for Cassio … is unusual, in excess of what is normally expected” (3E). This love permits Bianca’s intro as a lady into the play, and while she does fall under the category of the design female, Bianca is remarkable in her accessory to Cassio, able to “combine reason with love, mockery with affection” (5C). Her love functions as the reason for Othello’s failure- Cassio’s termination of her and the scarf are the ‘evidence’ that Othello looks for, and soon discovers (3F).
Even with this casual neglect, Bianca declines to be tossed aside, her love giving her “the courage to stay with the wounded Cassio … to avow her actions to Iago and to defy his condemnation of her” (3F). Bianca’s case, surprisingly, is among an extremely average lady whose love aids her in ending up being an amazing individual- possibly she is Shakespeare’s program that, though the other relationships end badly, a woman who knows and likes a male like Bianca is much better off than one who hates her partner or is rather blindly committed to him.
Throughout the play, the women are “lovers … faithful and courageous … they are uncorrupted, unmoved from their avowed requirements and acknowledged alliances” (3D). While they are tried, and punished, severely, the females manage to break down stereotypes and objectification, and can even like the men who do this to them at the very same time. While they seem to give in quickly, the women of Othello manage to master their own fates, and promote the feminist ideal- that ladies can be the equates to, and even the superiors to males, happily and intelligently. Bartels, Emily C. “Strategies of Submission: Desdemona, the Duchess, and the Assertion ofDesire. Research Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 36(Spring 1996): 417-33. Rpt. InShakespeareanCriticism. Ed. Michael L. LaBlanc. Vol. 79. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Replicated in Literature Resource Center. Gale, 2004. Shaker High School MediaCenter, Latham. 5 April 2011. Web. Garner, SN. “Shakespeare’s Desdemona.” Shakespeare Studies 9. 1976. Rpt. In Shakespeare forStudents. Ed. Mark W. Scott. Vol. 53. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 448-55. Print. Iyasere, Soloman. “The Freedom of Emilia.” Shakespeare in Southern Africa. 21(Annual2009):69. Replicated in Literature Resource Center. Gale, 2004.
Shaker High SchoolMedia Center, Latham. 8 April 2011. Web. Neely, Carol Thomas. “Females and Men in Othello.” William Shakespeare’s Othello. NewYork: ChelseaHouse Publishers, 1987. Rpt. In Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 68. Detroit: Wind, 2003. Recreated in Literature Resource Center. Windstorm, 2004. Shaker High School Media Center, Latham. 13 April 2011. Web. Sturrock, June. “Othello, Women and ‘Lady’.” Atlantis. Vol. 9, No. 2. Spring, 1984: 1-8. Rpt. In Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Spampinato and Janet Jivitalec. Vol. 53. Detroit: Gale, 2000: 310-14. Print.