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 crucial.
Bianca is a courtesan who is in love with Cassio, even though Cassio only sees her as a
laughable nuisance. Shakespeare's portrayal of Bianca is sympathetic – when Cassio treats
her like garbage, it's clear that Shakespeare's making a point about how women get used
throughout the play. Bianca's prostitute character is a foil not only to Desdemona's loyal
and innocent character but also to the jealousy constructed by Iago in Othello's
imagination. Bianca reflects the anger and hurt in the play felt by all the other characters.
Her lines are short and very few, but she models a majority of things such as; the low
and problematic status of women in this time period, what it means to love someone who
doesn't love you, and the nature of real and imagined jealousies. Othello is jealous over
little things Iago has planted in his head, but he has not seen ocular proof. Bianca finds
the handkerchief in Cassio's room planted by Iago, and get extremely jealous and upset.
She loves Cassio and wants to marry him, but he treats her like a joke. Cassio even
laughs about Bianca with Iago (while Othello listens thinking he is speaking of
Desdemona). Bianca wants nothing more than to marry Cassio, but Cassio tells Iago he
would never even consider it, calling her a "perfumed one" (IV.i.599), meaning a
prostitute. "I marry her? What? A customer? Prithee, bear some charity to my wit; do not
think it so unwholesome." (IV.i.599). While Cassio and Iago are having this conversation,
Bianca storms in in a jealous rage over the handkercheif, thinking it belongs to another
one of this girlfriends. This best show the realistic jealousy throughout the play. Bianca's
character is absolutely necessary for this portrayal.
Women are often over-looked in literature. Upon first glance, their characters are
just there to unfold a more interesting plot. However, even women with the smalled
amount of lines are very crucial and significant in their own way to the play or storyline
in general. Desdemona is there to represent good and innocence, Emilia models the
opposite of what women in that time were like; a mouthy, daring lady, and Bianca shows
the reader the lower class of the play, a foil to Desdemona's character, an example of
justified jealousy. Without each of these ladies, Iago's plot line would not have been as
successful. Women are rising up in society and contributing to the importance of literature
in the world.