Othello Essay, Research Paper
Q-Why is a bride’s dress always white?
A-To match the appliances!
Even though society has made great strides in trying to equalize women and men, there was a time when women were viewed as nothing more than a man’s property.
Shakespeare in his play Othello writes his male characters to view women in much the same demeaning way. In this play one can see two examples of women and the view their husbands place upon them. Both Desdamona and Emila are victims of the chauvenism of their husbands.
Marriage is the vow between two people, to be there for one another, to share in pain and suffering, to share in the good times and the bad times, and to share equally in life’s experiences. If this is so then why does Desdamona come across as property? Better question is why does she except this role! In this time era women were consider servants bonded by love to their husbands. Desdamona explains this clearly when she says:
“But here’s my husband,
And so much duty as my mother showed
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor my Lord” (Scene 1, Act 3, Lines 182-187)
She talks about duty to her husband. This duty is to obey him and respect him. Then she again describes herself and her position:
“‘Tis as I should entreat you wear your gloves,
Or feed on nourishing dishes, or keep you warm,
Or sue to you to do a peculiar profit
To your own person” (Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 77-80)
This is the typical view of men in this era, a position of seen, but not heard. Shakespeare takes women places them in his plays in order to give motive. In both Macbeth and Othello women are the cause of the man’s fall. In Othello if it were not for Desdamona, there would not be any jealous murders. She is the center point at which the book revolves. Even though her actual part is small her presence makes the play be possible. Desdamona’s place in this play is to stand there with minimal verbal interaction and to represent the high-class romantic women. From this Shakespeare will take a man’s jealous nature and twist it into a motive. Equality? No, but it common of this era and it suites Shakespeare’s purpose in this play.
The man is the head of the family? In Shakespeare’s time, yes. Not only is Othello the head of the family, but he also has his own views of women. He makes this pretty clear with his conversation with Iago, where Iago is speaking of his wife’s little escapades with Cassio. To this Othello response “And yet, how nature erring from itself-”(Act 3, Scene 3, Line 227). Meaning that because she is a woman, she can not resist herself from temptation. Then later when his jealousy is a rage he slaps his wife then gives a speech, which explains how his wife obeys his every whim.
“Ay! You did wish that I would make her turn.
Sir, she can turn, and turn, and yet go on
And turn again; and she can weep, sir, weep;
And she’s obedient; as you say, obedient.
Very obedient. Proceed you in your tears.
Concerning this, sir-O well-painted passion!
I am commanded home. –Get you away;
I’ll send for you anon.-Sir, I obey the mandate
And will return to Venice.-Hence, avaunt!” (Act 4, Scene 1, lines 252-260)
This must be one of most Chauvinistic comment of the entire play. This sums up the entire Othello opinion that starts off hidden at the beginning of the play, but emerges under anger. Thank God society has evolved above such opinions as that of Othello’s.
The stereotypes of women’s positions in this society were not stopped by the boundaries of economic class. Emilia is a perfect example of this. She is a hard working middle class woman, who still bears the burden of her husband’s sexiest attitude. She believes that the purpose of a women is to strengthen her husband, through any means necessary. She gives an example of this when she says:
would not make her husband a cuckold to make him
a monarch? I should venture purgatory for’t”(Act 4, Scene 3, Line 77-79)
What she is saying, is that she is willing to sacrifice her body’s purity in order to make her husband be more powerful. Something like this isn’t just a response out of the blue, it must be driven into someone. Society is the hammer and chauvinism is the nail. Another example of Emilia’s desperate attempt to obtain her husband’s approval is when she steals Desdamona’s napkin. Gives it to Iago, without even thinking of the consequences. If she did not feel so unequal, she wouldn’t have done this act in order to obtain a sense of approval. However without this kind of society, Shakespeare’s plot would not work. Yet another example of how Shakespeare uses women to assist the play. However Emilia will start to break free from inequality when she stands up to her husband near the end of the book (act five). Even in this book one can see how society is beginning to grow from it’s primitive views.
Where would chauvinism be in society if it were not for men, men like Iago. If ever there was a leader for a male dominant society this man would be it. Every word Iago speaks in referance to women he devours their worth. In fact he even makes a speech about the purpose of women:
“Come on, come on! You are pictures out of
Bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchens,
Saints in your injuries, devils being offended
Players in your housewifery, and housewives in
your beds.” (Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 108-112)
If this does not perfectly describe his view of women, then maybe the way he refers to even his own wife as “wench” does. Iago spends the whole play trying to achieve power, but any extra time he has, he goes out of his way to put down women. Society will always be filled with simpletons who will never treat women with equality. The fact is that if women would have been treated with more respect and they were actually viewed as equals free to voice their opinions, then none of this play could have taken place. Othello would have talked to his wife, found out that Iago was lying and that would be the end of the play right there. Shakespeare needed this environment; he needed an Iago to make this play possible.
It’s a man’s world, so where does that leave women in Shakespeare’s play? Right where Shakespeare wants them, without this old view of inequality his play wouldn’t work. Not to say that he was inordinately sexiest, but that he wrote women as were seen in his time. He uses this to make women have major parts in his plays without having their lines bear serious significance. Their presence is what makes the play work, not their lines. If this play were written today, he would have women’s liberation groups at his neck, which just goes to show how far society has advanced. We still have a long way to go, but with open-mindedness and room for change one day we will reach a point of perfect equality and harmonization.
-”Equality can only be achieved when we set aside our differences and look for our similarities!”
Othello the Book