Female Characters in Othello

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ENG 152
March 15, 2011
Othello Essay D

Shakespeare only presents three female characters in Othello, however, each of

these women play a crucial role in developing the plot line. Desdemona, Emilia, and

Bianca are all significant woman in Shakespeare's Othello, but they each play their own

important role. Desdemona's character represents purity and devotion, while Emilia's

character models the exact opposite. Emilia represents a witty, smart-mouthed woman

who is not afraid to let others know what she thinks. The last female, Bianca, represents

the vulgar and risque courtesans of the lower class. Each female seems like a small

character, but Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca each play a vital role in Iago's scheme.

The character of Desdemona is suppose to represent a woman of the 17

century who surpassed the norms of sexual morality set for Venetian woman of

that time. Her name "desdemona" has multiple meanings. In greek, disdemona means

ill-fated. (Which is forshadowed in Othello's line "O' ill-starred wrench" (V.ii.) ).

It is also said that the word "demon" is in the middle of her name which aludes

to how Othello, who has "hell" in the middle of his name, really sees her Desdemona

is a venetian beauty who is estranged from her father when she elopes with the moor,

Othello, who is several years her senior and not of the same race. When Desdemona

left her father, Brabantio's, house to elope with Othello, it began redefining her role

as just another female in a story. When Othello names Cassio his lieutenant, Iago

uses Desdemona to bring about Othello's downfall. Iago sees that Desdemona and

Cassio are friendly towards each other, so he plants the seed in Othello's head that

an affair is going on. He uses scenes in which nothing happens and exaggerates

what Othello sees to make things worse than they really are. Desdemona's

character is the epitome of innocence. In Act 4, scene 2 Othello charges

Desdemonda with being a whore. After Othello leaves, Desdemona is speaking

with Iago and can not even bring herself to say the word whore. "Am I that name,

Iago?" (IV. ii. 608). No matter what Othello has done to her, she remained a loyal

and loving wife throughout the entire play. Desdemona represents good in a good

vs. evil tragedy.

Emilia is Iago's wife and unknowingly, his accomplice. "My Desdemonda must

I leave to thee./ I prithee, let thy wife attend on her, (I.iii.545). Othello asks Iago to have

Emilia tend to Desdemona while he is away in Cyprus. This is Emilia's chance to get close

to her. Emilia plays a very important role for Iago. She picks up Desdemona's

handkerchief after Desdemona drops it, and gives it to Iago; securing Desdemona's fate

without understanding what she has done. Emilia represents the sassy side of women who

is more than willing to cause confrontations. "O, the more angel she,/ And you the blacker

devil!" (V.ii.626). When she discovers Othello has smothered Desdemona, she does not

hesitate to scream, threaten and even call Othello rude names. "She was too fond of her

most filthy bargain." (V.ii.627). Here, she is confronting Othello about what he has done.

Even when he holds a sword to her throat, Emilia is not tempted to hold her tongue. "Do

thy worst!" (V.ii.627). Women of this time were taught to listen to what their husbands

tell them to do, and keep quiet when instructed to do so, "Tis proper I obey him, but

not now,"(V.ii.628).Emilia represents a woman that does not follow those standards.

"I will not charm my tongue; I am bound to speak" (V.ii.627). In the final scene, she

explains the handkercheif to Othello,even though her husband is yelling at her to go home.

She stands up for what she believes is right, and does not let anything get in her way.

Bianca has very few lines throughout the play, but her part is still very...
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