Venetian Women In Othello

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A feminist analysis of William Shakespeare's play Othello allows us to judge the different marital relationships and the treatment of women in Elizabethan England. The notions of the Elizabethan patriarchal society, the practice of privileges in these marriages, and the suppression and restriction of femininity are all exhibited through Othello’s Venetian society. According to the Elizabethan Era, women were expected only to marry and keep responsibilities of the household, justified and acceptable by patriarchal rule. As we go through Othello we find that the women characters: Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca, are presented according to these ideals of the Elizabethan culture. Elizabeth I may have moved Shakespeare to create powerful female roles…show more content…
The ideological expectation of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan society and the fictional Venetian society that he creates is irrefutably related to the way that these women behave and conduct themselves. Shakespeare used Othello to focus on the treatment of women, especially in marriage, exhibited by Elizabeth I and the discomfort her independence brought to Elizabethan men. Desdemona shows her absolute faithfulness to Othello by following him to Cyprus. This results in the estrangement from her father, Barbantio, who she claims to be “bound for life” to, which signifies the notion women are property to men (I.III.180). Desdemona “insists her marriage fulfills her duty to turn from father to husband” customary of the Elizabethan Era (Bartels 424). These patriarchal ideas about women lead Othello to treat Desdemona in accordance with the attitudes of the time later on in the play. This behavior exemplifies a double standard men hold towards the women of this play. It is through this ‘ownership’ aspect of the relationships in Othello that Shakespeare explores how women are expected to show total loyalty to men whether father, husband or lover – regardless of the men’s treatment of them. Othello strikes Desdemona, and while she says, “I have not deserved…show more content…
Othello faces a dilemma of vulnerability because of his marriage. In Othello, the most prominent emotions of love, jealousy and finally hate lead into one another to further intensify each and bring about a most tragic end. The most notable emotional attitudes in the tragedy display vulnerabilities that are caused by interrelations among characters. This emotional manipulation is shown through Iago “pouring his pestilence into Othello’s ear” telling him “the desired form” of evidence on Desdemona’s infidelity (Dessen 117). Understanding this point is essential to understanding the play because each of the attitudes and emotions presented in the play are balanced to an equally contrary emotion or attitude such as love, hate or pride and self-insecurity. Prejudices, rather racial or sexist, are clearly portrayed in the play to point out the injustice caused by such attacks on a person’s humanity. Racism is an inescapable component of Othello’s life just as sexism is a major component of the women’s lives in Othello. From the very start of the tragedy, the viewer is bombarded with the overtly racist and sexual language of Iago to Brabantio, saying “an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe” (I.I.85-86). In Elizabethan England and Shakespeare’s Venetian society sexism is in many ways seen as more acceptable than

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