Sexism in "Othello"

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In Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Othello’, the audience experiences a definite sense of sexism which roots from numerous characters in the play.

Sexism is behaviour which is abusive or discriminatory towards the opposite sex. Throughout ‘Othello’, women are abusively spoken to being called “strumpets” and “whore[s]” and accused of all sorts of crimes which they did not commit. There are only three women in the play and each one is portrayed as either being innocent, naïve and unintelligent or as a prostitute. They are shown to almost worship the men and obediently comply with their wishes.

The first indication of sexist behaviour is immediately present in the opening scenes of the play, when Brabantio hears about the relationship between “the Moor” and his daughter – the “divine Desdemona”. In this scene Brabantio accuses Othello of being a “foul thief” who has “robb'd” him of his daughter. This accusation implies that as a father, Brabantio assumes authority over his daughter and, unjustly, total control over her choice of a marriage partner. Furthermore, when Desdemona confesses her love for “[her] husband”, Brabantio simply disowns her for marrying a man of whom he does not approve.

Iago’s already dark and evil character is worsened by the way he treats women in the play. In ACT TWO,Scene one, he insults his wife, Emilia’s talkative nature saying that she talks “too much” and “without thinking”. He continues to belittle her in this way throughout the play until he finally murders her for stubbornly speaking the truth. Moreover Iago refers both to his wife and to Desdemona as “foolish wom[e]n” and unjustifiably suspects them of disloyalty for the polite gesture of kiss on “the palm” by Cassio. Iago openly jokes about a woman’s worth and although out of jest, Iago’s speech represents a type of mistrust in all women. Furthermore, Iago’s entire scheme for revenge against Othello is based on the sexist attitude that women are fickle and flawed in character....
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