Geoffrey Sax’s modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s Othello has the ability to speak to responders of different times and places as despite the shift in context, for both explore the universal concepts of misogynist attitudes and racism. Shakespeare’s play reflects traditional Elizabethan contexts and values in its exploration of such concepts whilst depicting a tragedy instigated by jealousy and mistrust; however, Geoffrey Sax’s 2001 representation of Othello, set in contemporary London, focuses on issues of racism and the post-feminist role of women in this modern society. In examining these different interpretations, the varying portrayals that mirror the composer’s context reinforce the effectiveness of both texts.
Despite the recontextualisation of the treatment and status of women, both Shakespeare’s Othello and Sax’s Othello depict the oppression of women in society and the subordinate position of women in comparison to men. In Shakespeare’s patriarchal context, women were seen as definite subordinates, to the extent that they were objects owned by their husbands and fathers. In Othello, this sense of subordination is illustrated in the opening scene where Brabantio describes that he has been ‘robb(ed)’ when he realised that his daughter Desdemona has run off with Othello, exclaiming that she had been ‘stol’n from [him],’ connoting the status of Desdemona merely as property of her father. Iago sees wives as ‘nothing, but to please… fantasies’, treated as ‘maids’ just to ‘pleasure’ their husbands, the misogynistic language further emphasizing the subservient status of women within the play. Derogatory terms are aimed towards socially and sexually transgressive women throughout the play, with such women being described as ‘impudent strumpet(s)’and ‘cunning whore(s) of Venice.’
To some degree, Sax’s film asserts the emancipation of women, reflecting his post-feminist social context. Dessie is able to make her own decisions without her father,...
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