Othello - Female Stereotypes

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Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Othello Essay

In “Othello,” William Shakespeare extensively explores female stereotypes that occur during the playwright’s time. Throughout the Shakespearian era, women were seen as the inferior sex, over whom men had complete control and thus forcing women to act submissively and obediently in front of their husbands. Men believed that women were objects who just cooked meals, cleaned the house, and bore children while society just accepted these degrading roles. William Shakespeare extensively reinforces female stereotypes by presenting the deaths of Emilia and Desdemona to be rightly deserved for defying their female gender roles throughout the play. Emilia and Desdemona are polar opposite characters who serve the same function for Shakespeare to reinforce sexist stereotypes in his play. Emilia’s constant challenge of the female stereotype with her cynical yet modern ideas and Desdemona’s misleading portrayal of the perfect Shakespearean woman lead both characters to their untimely deaths. By acknowledging William Shakespeare’s sexist presentation of his female characters, readers are able to make their own opinions on the credibility of Shakespeare’s claim that a woman who defies her gender role deserves to die.

Emilia is led to her death by defying the sexist, female convention. Emilia is unlike any other character in “Othello” in that she challenges the Shakespearean female stereotype by insulting the idea of husbands, believing in women’s equal right to infidelity, stealing her own friend’s handkerchief, and swearing at a man superior to her. Her death is symbolic for representing a repercussion of her actions for not conforming to the female stereotype. Disregarding her gender conventions, Emilia first speaks bitterly of all husbands and their actions towards their wives, “They are all but stomachs, and we all but food. To eat us hungerly, and when they are full, They belch us,” (3.4.99-101). During that time, insulting...
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