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In His Tragedies Shakespeare Often Presents Women Merely as the Tragic Victims of Men.(TM) To What Extent Do You Consider This Applies to Desdemona In Othello(TM)?

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'In His Tragedies Shakespeare Often Presents Women Merely as the Tragic Victims of Men.' To What Extent Do You Consider This Applies to Desdemona 'In Othello'? "There are no Antigones in Elizabethan Drama," Lyndsey Turner. Turner is here expressing the view that Shakespeare does not use his women as heroines. Instead she is of the opinion that they are used as devices on which the "tragic impulses of the plays' male characters are enacted." They are a device to produce a cathartic response from Shakespeare's audience. In order to discuss to what extent Desdemona complies with this view, it would appear logical to define a tragic victim. Many say that a tragic victim is a character in a tragedy who suffers at the hand of circumstance and the fates. They suffer through no fault of their own and are brought down by others, they are totally powerless to change their fate and don't contribute to their own tragedy; they are solely the victims of others. It is also vital that they produce a cathartic response from the audience in order for their suffering to be tragic. Looking at these criteria it becomes clear why Shakespeare often uses women as his tragic victims. ...read more.


It is seemingly no wonder that Othello calls her, "his fair warrior." Although Desdemona is first portrayed as quite a heroic figure by Shakespeare he soon starts to use her as a cathartic device, as the audience watch her previous strength fall away. It becomes clear that Shakespeare made her so strong willed deliberately in order to shape our response to Desdemona. Doing this makes it that much more painful for the audience. A major episode wherein Desdemona is presented as an object of pity is in the handkerchief episode. Desdemona loses her handkerchief and Othello sees Cassio with it. Despite Othello's growing suspicion, Desdemona remains ignorant claiming that, "The sun where he was born drew all such humours from him." We feel tremendous pity for Desdemona when she says this because Shakespeare has shaped our response using structure and also the irony of her language. In the last scene we saw that Othello was seething with jealousy and vowed to kill her. This amplifies hugely our feeling of catharsis for her because we feel so helpless. Our pity for her is only added to when Shakespeare shapes events in the play so that all her qualities that were viewed as good in the first act of the play cause her to fall even further. ...read more.


But in many ways the same is true for Desdemona. Emilia tries to tell her that, "Jealous souls are not ever jealous for the cause, but jealous for they are jealous." But even after this warning Desdemona takes no heed of anyone but Iago, therefore it could just perhaps be confirmation of Iago's intelligence, this backs up Desdemona's role as a victim as she is a victim of others. So in conclusion there is no doubt that Desdemona's demise is very much tragic. Also having examined the criteria it would be accurate to say that in many ways Desdemona is a victim. She suffers through no fault of her own and is the victim of circumstance. However, I am not sure that one could say that she was totally powerless to stop her eventual fate. I would say that Desdemona was not a victim of Iago's scheming or Othello's jealousy as she could have stopped these. She was a victim of her own love for Othello. Therefore, I would say that the statement in the title applies to Desdemona so far as she was the tragic victim of her own love for a man. ...read more.

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