Perhaps the most spiteful, devious, and despicable character Shakespeare has ever created is that of Iago, the antagonist of his famous tragic play, Othello. Manipulative and cunning, he deceives everyone with his poise and “honest” words. However, in Act II, Scene I, his virtuous facade is momentarily diminished, when he puts forth his bigoted opinions on women. This disturbing series of dialogue illustrate his misogynistic values, his objectification of females, and his ideas of promiscuity among women.
Notably, an element of Iago’s sexism originates from his belief that all women are deceitful. Iago disputes that women are lazy and talkative behind closed doors, yet in public, they are modest and presentable. However, this is despite the fact that women in this era had little rights and were very dependent on their husbands. It was the social norm for wives to stay at home and perform housewifery duties, while men went out to work. Nevertheless, he belittles and insults his wife for this very reason. In Act II, Scene I, Cassio greets Emilia with a kiss, and to Iago’s discontent, he sneeringly warns Cassio, “would she give you so much of her lips, As of her tongue she oft bestows on me You’d have enough” (2.1, 109-111). Conversely, his anger may seem unreasonable as it is obvious that he does not respect, nor love his wife. Instead, his disapproval stems from his ideas of women being possessions. In his own manipulative ways, he uses Emilia and Desdemonda as objects to further his own desires. In fact, he states this in his soliloquy as his act of revenge on Othello, as he plans to get “evened with him, wife for wife” (2.1, 290). Iago truly believes he can accomplish this, because of his presumption that all women are promiscuous. Even a lady such as Desdemona with “fairness and wit, The one’s for use, the other useth it” (2.1, 135-136). He has confidence that Desdemonda will commit infidelity, due to her stereotypical need to satisfy her physical...
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