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Gender Stereotypes In Othello Essay

1952 words - 8 pages

Stereotypes are commonly held generalized beliefs that most or all individuals sharing a given trait also should or do share other attributes assumed to be associated with aspects such as race, religion, and physical attribute. While stereotypes can erroneously shape people’s views of others, they can also influence the stereotyped individuals’ behavior as people often attempt to conform to these flawed images, especially in regards to gender stereotypes. Shakespeare’s great play Othello uses its main characters to embody the characteristics of the stereotypical females and males according to society’s liking. The stereotypical woman is loyal and faithful to her husband, while the male stereotype possesses strength, control, and dominance. This use of stereotypes enables many misperceptions to develop and build until ultimately everyone experiences downfall and destruction. Shakespeare includes the effects of gender roles and identities and the consequences of violating those roles. Through the depiction of both women and men in Othello, Shakespeare criticizes society and the gender stereotypes it creates that erode one’s humanity and individuality.
Men and women are victims of society’s influence as they succumb to stereotypes that shape their perceptions of their individual roles in society and those of others. The flawed views that men possess of women and women possess of men result in the idealization and degradation of both genders. Their expectations of one another are formed around societal stereotypes, encouraging behavior that is often extreme. Shakespeare reveals all of these truths through the characters and the narrow-mindedness that they possess as a result of immense exposure to gender roles and stereotypes. Othello’s “conflicts are resolved, his needs to idealize and degrade her to maintain their love intact are momentarily reconciled only when he kills her” (Neely). Shakespeare mocks society’s extreme measures by suggesting death as the sole option for Othello when he fails to understand that Desdemona may not fit female stereotypes. Without the ability to label her, Othello fails to “assert Desdemona’s chastity and corruptibility simultaneously” and “murders Desdemona to redeem her from degradation” (Neely). The characters, like many people, struggle to alter views that have been so firmly pressed into their minds. In this way, Shakespeare negatively comments on humans’ inabilities to see beyond what society tells them and to comprehend truths unique to a specific person rather than his gender roles. Shakespeare uses the characters Desdemona and Othello to display how people become accustomed to the gender identities that society defines for them. Therefore, both characters, as depicted by their deaths, fail to understand each other personally as individuals instead of as the stereotypical man or woman that is being presented.
Although misperceptions about the other gender are dangerous causes of downfall, flawed views among...

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