Discussion Of "Othello" And Its Many Readings

1775 words - 7 pages

Monira: So, Jo, we're studying Othello in class at the moment, but I think our teacher has a very limited view on the text!Jo: Yes, I totally agree! The text's universal literary qualities: the themes the structure, the language are valued in many different ways. And this is shaped by your own values and experiences.M: You're right Jo, there are various ways of looking at Othello, especially in terms of the relationship between men and women in patriarchal society, that is your feminist reading. And that looks at the way the patriarchal nature of Venetian society works to label women who behave outside expected norms.J: Well, Monira, I know what you are saying when you read Othello as a study in patriarchal excess, but I somehow doubt that Shakespeare was mostly concerned with the role of women in society. After all, in writing for an early Seventeenth Century audience, was Shakespeare not bound by the social roles allocated to men and women?M: Perhaps, but if we examine the structure of the play we see examples of patriarchal control at work. The play opens with Iago, Roderigo and Brabantio speaking about Desdemona as if she is a possession. She is even referred to as a "white ewe". Women are always owned my men as daughters, wives and prostitutes. Their relationships are defined by their relevance to men. And I believe that Shakespeare tries to challenge this kind of society, starting with Desdemona. In defying her father and choosing a husband of different race, she goes beyond the feminine norm of her time. She would even enter into a war zone to experience the "rites for which [she] loves him". She wants a life of excitement and adventure!J: From what you're saying, I can tell Emilia must be your favourite character.M: From a feminist perspective, she's a star! In Act IV, Emilia directly rejects the Elizabethan patriarchal worldview. Doesn't she say "we have galls, and though we have some grace, yet we have some revenge" A woman's 'gall' is their spirit, their capacity to feel anger and resentment, and it's a natural human trait. But it's also a pun; for 'sore' or 'wound'. Thus, Emilia points out that women may be victims of a system which silences and controls them, but they are also human, therefore they are entitled to the same masculine right of revenge. This because "they have sense like them: they see and smell … as husbands have". Emilia rhetorically defeats the division of the world into dominant male and submissive female by showing that both sexes have equal experiences as bodies, therefore should be treated equally.J: Emilia's has immense rhetorical force in her speech.M: That's right. I think that's why what she says really hits you. Her speech is structured on a set of rhetorical questions, designed to engage the audience's consent to the obvious rightness of the answers. I mean" have we not affections, desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?". Emilia's forthright discussion of human sexuality emphasises on the...

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