The Impact of Gender on Shakespeare’s Othello
In the book “Gender Trouble” (1990), feminist theorist Judith Butler explains “gender is not only a social construct, but also a kind of performance such as a show we put on, a costume or disguise we wear” (Butler). In other words, gender is a performance, an act, and costumes, not the main aspect of essential identity. By understanding this theory of gender as an act, performance, we can see how gender has greatly impacted the outcome of the play in William Shakespeare’s Othello. From a careful analysis of the story, tragedy in Othello is result of violating expected gender roles, gender performance by Desdemona and Othello, and the result of Iago’s inability to tolerate these violations. The tragedy “Othello” is written by William Shakespeare in 1604. The story is based on revenge of two characters, Othello and Iago. Othello, the play’s protagonist and hero, who has great reputation as one of Venice’s most competent generals. However, his jealousy causes the major tragedy in his life. This tragedy is brought by a simple manipulation of Iago, the villain of the play. The jealousy led Othello to a path of constant questioning to his wife, and his friend Cassio. Throughout the play, he sinks deeper and deeper into his doubt and eventually that causes him to kill not only the love of his life, but also himself. In her work, “This that you call Love”: Sexual and Social Tragedy in Othello, Gayle Greene (2004) argues that the tragedy occurs from adherence to patriarchal rules and stereotypes (Greene 655-659). According to Gary Greene, the tragedy is caused by “men’s misunderstandings of women and women’s inability to protect themselves from society’s conception of them” (666). In the 17th century, the norms of gender expectation set for women are passivity, softness, and obedience, in contrast to masculine qualities such as dominance, aggression, and authority. However, in Othello, the character of Desdemona surpassed...
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