The strong influential themes of race and women in Shakespeare’s Othello are consistently portrayed in Jeoffery Sax’s contemporary film version of Othello, however the themes are greatly contrasted through the influential changes in society which undermine the values and purposes of these themes. The changes in values of these themes are expressed vividly in both accounts.
It is evident throughout Shakespeare’s Othello that women are portrayed through the stereotypical stance of having a ‘lower status’ to men, as a males dominate society in nearly all aspects. Women were displayed as being promiscuous, untrustworthy, rash decision makers and generated a lack of intellect or understanding. Women were not respect but rather referred to as props who led less respectable lives to that of men. This is evident through out Shakespeare’s Othello as Desdemona is represented as the typical wife and Emilia is portrayed as the typical female servant. The first evidence of this is demonstrated in Act one where Barbantio, Desdemona’s father speaks out against Othello and Desdemona’s marriage, he expresses the notion of Desdemona being ‘bound to him for life and education’ and he expresses her as his own property and that he must own her until he gives her to a somewhat successful powerful white noble figure. This expresses his stereotypical view of women within society and this is highly ironic due to the circumstances in which Desdemona is acting out of the typical character of women by diseaving her father and marrying a highly contrasted figure, being Othello, than her father has desired. The stereotypical circumstance for women in Elizabethan times states that women shall remain virgins until marriage and therefore must give their virginity to their husbands as a way of demonstrating the theory of being bound for life. This coincides with the past interpretation of Barbantio representing women as props and the ability to own them. The symbol of the handkerchief in Shakespeare’s Othello is a symbol of virginity as the handkerchief is dotted with red strawberries, which strongly suggests the bloodstains left on the sheets on a virgin’s wedding night. The handkerchief being a gift from Othello to Desdemona plays a significant role through Igao’s method of manipulation. By questioning Desdemona essence of virginity Iago is able to successfully portray Desdemona as how he feels women should be perceived. “In Venice they do let God see the pranks they dare not show their husbands. Their best conscience is not to leave’t undone, but keep’t unknown’. By alluding to God Shakespeare is ironically contrasting the purity of virginity to the defilement of promiscuous women. This is alluding to Iago’s consistent reflection of women as promiscuous whores. Othello says to Desdemona “come my dear love,/ The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue./ The profit’s yet to come ’tween me and you” This metaphorical comment seems to indicate the couple has not yet made their marriage official through the act of sex. The “purchase” is the wedding and the “fruits” are the sex. This is ironic for theoretically this implies Othello’s lack of control over Desdemona for he does not yet own her through taking her virginity, this also alludes to the essence of promiscuity as she could have given her virginity to someone like Cassio which adds to Othello’s ability to be manipulated. However the metaphor could be suggesting Othello to already have taken her virginity by suggesting the “purchase” is Desdemona’s virginity. This could then suggest Othello’s unwillingness to account for his wrongdoing in unleashing her newly awakened sexuality. Emilia’s attitude to the roles of women in Elizabethan is strong and portrays an ironic sense of acting against traditions. Her views are strongly contrasted to that of Desdemona who’s attitude towards her own chasity at the end of the play represents her how males of the time would have expected of a women, however Emila...
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