Examine Shakespeare's presentation of relationships in Othello.

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  • Explore Shakespeare's presentation of relationships in Othello.
    • Male dominant perspective.
      • Unsurprisingly, 'Othello' is dominated by the males perspective. Othello's relationship with Desdemona is portrayed by Othello's views for the vast majority of the play.
        • "With a greedy ear she would devour up my discourse".
          • "devour" suggests Desdemona's desire for Othello was profound and that her actions were quick and decisive.
            • Othello fails to show this same desire to his wife.
              • Leavis argued that Othello never really knew Desdemona, the only time in the play he shows a desire to know something about his wife he commands Iago to "set on thy wife to observe".
                • Suggests an imbalance in their relationship and foreshadows his later treatment of Desdemona.
                  • Unsurprisingly, 'Othello' is dominated by the males perspective. Othello's relationship with Desdemona is portrayed by Othello's views for the vast majority of the play.
                    • "With a greedy ear she would devour up my discourse".
                      • "devour" suggests Desdemona's desire for Othello was profound and that her actions were quick and decisive.
                        • Othello fails to show this same desire to his wife.
                          • Leavis argued that Othello never really knew Desdemona, the only time in the play he shows a desire to know something about his wife he commands Iago to "set on thy wife to observe".
                            • Suggests an imbalance in their relationship and foreshadows his later treatment of Desdemona.
                              • Male dominant perspective.
                      • Othello only listens to "honest Iago", never really communicates with Desdemona.
                        • Unsurprising to a modern audience as the play is called 'Othello the tragic moor', which hints at his hamartia and his insecurities.
                      • Marriage itself may shock a modern audience due to the clear inequality between the genders.
          • Othello only listens to "honest Iago", never really communicates with Desdemona.
            • Unsurprising to a modern audience as the play is called 'Othello the tragic moor', which hints at his hamartia and his insecurities.
          • Marriage itself may shock a modern audience due to the clear inequality between the genders.
      • Desdemona's attitudes towards Othello.
        • Desdemona constantly refers to Othello as "dear".
          • Suggests a special bond between the two.
            • Reiterated by her wish that their "loves and comforts should increase".
              • Difficult to believe for a traditional audience due to Othello's ethnic background and the racial prejudice at the time.
                • Makes their love all the more powerful and portrays her as a genuinely good and kind hearted person.
        • Constantly nags Othello to reinstate Cassio as lieutenant as it would be a "profit to your own person".
          • Once again shows she only wants what's best for Othello.
        • Even when Othello claims she's unfaithful, Desdemona's love "doth approve him".
          • She claims to "Know not how I lost him", suggesting that she feels it's her fault. She doesn't even begin to think that Othello could be at fault.
      • Emilia's attitudes towards Iago.
        • Cynical view of men
          • "Tis not a year or two shows us a man".
            • She suggests that men "eat us hungerly " and "belch us" when they're full.
              • The verb "belch" implies the act of being sick, suggesting to the audience that women are like food to men, once their appetite is satisfied, they're thrown away.
          • Emilia believes it is "their husbands' faults if wives do fall", which creates the impression that she thinks it's the man's fault if a wife cheats.
            • Shows the contrast between Emilia and Desdemona who is devoted to Othello even when he's killing her.
        • Despite being called a "foolish wife" by Iago, takes Desdemona's handkerchief to "please his fantasy".
          • Shows the audience that even she is acting like an obedient wife as women were expected to at the time and that she wants Iago to be happy.
        • Emilia claims she would "do't as well I'th'dark".
          • A traditional audience would be astounded at Emilia's words as women at the time were expected to be obedient towards their husbands, so to even think about making their husbands cuckolds was incomprehensible.

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