The Role of Women in Othello
At the beginning of Othello two men stand and discuss the fate of a woman. One contested for her and lost and the other willingly admits to her beauty, charm and worth. Both men wish to bring down the man who has won her, Desdemona, and slander her name nonetheless. This man, their rival and superior is none other than Othello. Othello has managed to obtain something they could not; Desdemona. Throughout the play Desdemona is rarely viewed as a human being, she is merely a prize, and from the very beginning Desdemona is an object of lust. Emilia and Bianca are also mistreated in this way.
The three women in the play; Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca contrast in class. Desdemona is born from a high-class Venetian family, Emilia is from a servant class and Bianca is a prostitute or "whore", a word that Desdemona refuses to use. Despite this they are all abused by men and are objects of men's sexuality, and they all suffer under the cruel hands of those whom they love. Each one is shown in relation to a particular man, (Othello, Iago and Cassio) and is contrasted with the other women, which reveal how the stereotypical version of womanhood impacts their lives, (in Desdemona and Emilia's case, their deaths). The three women's eventual destinies are interlinked with the plays central symbol: the handkerchief.
Women are major characters in Shakespeare's plays. In "Othello" women are treated no different. They are defined rather uniquely. These definitions inhibit upon Shakespearean society. Women in that era were supposed to be obedient, silent and chaste. If a lady were not any of these aforementioned characteristics, then she would not be acceptable by the norms of the Elizabethan society.
Desdemona disobeys the standards set by Elizabethan society, she is not silent and obedient at the questioning of Othello. She, in fact, disobeys her Father to be with her husband. She speaks up for Othello at the hearing and implores the Duke to allow her to go to Cyprus, something that women just do not do. In the end, her quality of being chaste would be questioned by Othello. By his own method he determines that she is guilty of infidelity.
Desdemona occupies contradictory positions in "Othello", she is both "half the wooer" (an active female who makes her own choices to marry Othello and to defend Cassio) and the passive prey or victim. Her husband, Othello, truly loves her, yet he thinks less of how she feels and more of how she makes him happy. The moment Iago whispers the slightest suspicions into Othello's ear, Othello no longer thinks of Desdemona. He confronts her my saying that he knows what she has done, and then leaves; he does not listen to her or ask any questions for clarity. Othello believes that Desdemona has betrayed him and so he kills her. He kills the woman he loves because a "man" tells him what has, and needs to, happen. Desdemona is abused by four male characters in the play: her father...