Depiction of Female Characters in Shakespeare's Othello

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Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca- the women in Othello
a. Status of women in seventeenth century England. Women as portrayed in Othello. b. Desdemona – a chaste wife turned whore.
c. Emilia – a wife of no value to Iago + her sorority bonding with Desdemona.
“It is their husbands’ faults, if their wives do fail”. Othello, a play about race, power and gender is one of the best works of Shakespeare, and highlights few of the major societal issues of his time. On the one side is Othello, who is caught in his racial inferiority, fighting the prejudices his society has heaped upon him. And on the other side is Desdemona, who has transgressed her gender lines to marry the Moor, but is ultimately pushed into the sphere of submission and obedience – the traditional place where a woman should keep herself. We are made to wonder then: Whose tragedy is Othello really about and who was the real victim, Othello for his racial inferiority or Desdemona for her gender? If Othello makes himself appear to be a victim of Iago’s plans, confessing “nought I did in hate, but all in honor”, then he had too had once made Desdemona his victim. And not Desdemona alone, the other two women in the play, Emilia and Bianca face similar consequences. Emilia is another chaste, obedient and loyal wife to Iago – the malignant conniver, worser than Desdemona, she is never treated as a wife. And the last Bianca is, in fact, a fallen woman – a prostitute. The treatment of women in the play and the assumptions made about them removes the curtains drawn and triggers the single question in the minds of the readers – How true is the depiction of women in the play, and did Shakespeare’s society treat women in the same manner? As a matter of fact, seventeenth century England did not reserve a grand place for women, and feminist writings on women’s deplorable lives have come up mostly during Shakespeare’s time. This paper will study the three women characters and emit some light...
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