Women in Othello

  • Created by: zhutt12
  • Created on: 11-07-19 14:31

The treatment of women

It is clear that the society within “Othello” have clear roles and expectations for both men and women, in they way in which men were viewed to be superior to women.

For example, daughters were viewed to be a possession of their father, which is clearly illustrated by the line directed towards Brabantio, “look to your house, your daughter, and your bags”. The placement of Desdemona in between Brabantio’s belongings show that his daughter belongs to him in the same way that one may own land or objects. This objectification of Desdemona illustrates the wider view that society has of women, as they were viewed as inferior to the men around them as they were treated as a possession of either their father or the husband, that their father decided was appropriate. Therefore, many women had next to no voice about their own lives,and were required to follow the order given to them by the ‘superior’ men.

John Knox, a  protestant clergyman wrote a diatribe against women rulers called “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”, in which he stated “A woman ought to serve her husband as unto God, affirming that in nothing has woman equal power to man”, which is supported by the views of many of the characters in the play. It is evident that in may cases the women characters are required “serve her husband”, for example the scene in which Emilia chooses to give the handkerchief to Iago rather than Desdemona.

Kiernan Ryan argues that “Shakespeare’s tragic protagonists are all overpowered by the prevailing social and ideological tides which sweep them unawares out of their depth, rather than by some metaphysical predestined fortune”, and it is clear that these “social and ideological tides” do control and limit many of the characters, therefore it may be possible that society does not allow women to be socially superior to to men.

Feminists within Othello

Emilia challenges John Knox’s statement that “a woman ought to serve her husband as unto God”, as she believes that it is important to remember that “men are not god”, therefore questions why should women treat them as if they were. She holds the view that women are exploited by the men who abuse their power, as shown by the vivid imagery relating to food digestion of “ they are all but stomachs, and we all but food; they eat us hungrily, and when they are full, they belch us”. Food digestion is a  natural part of life that is completed by every living form in one way or another, and therefore it could be inferred that the exploitation of women is viewed as a


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