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Shakespeare presents independent strong- willed women in Othello. Consider significance of these two statements how do you think Shakespeare presents women in the play?

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Fryer "Desdemona and Emilia are passive women who are told what to do by their men." "Shakespeare presents independent strong- willed women in Othello." Consider significance of these two statements how do you think Shakespeare presents women in the play? Desdemona and Emilia although at times appear subservient to their husbands it is mostly done out of love and willingness to please. Indeed both women are passive victims of the male characters within the play. After all it is "out of her own goodness" that Desdemona enabled Iago to " make the net" that was unfortunately to "enmesh them all." (II.3 351) Although passive, both women have the articulation to express themselves and voice their opinion, thus reflecting, as often is the case in his plays, Shakespeare's presentation of strong-willed women. At first we hear the other characters speak of Desdemona as a, 'daughter' who has fallen into the "clasps of a lascivious Moor" (I.i 127) giving the impression of a young naive girl who has succumbed to the lustful charms of Othello. However, Desdemona is "half the wooer," who ran away from her father's house to marry him. Indeed, her first speech quite clearly supports the opposite and presents a supremely independent mature female, who is fully aware of her feelings and deep love for her husband, " I do perceive here a divided duty............But here's my husband."

Middle

In act II both Desdemona and Emilia are quick to defend themselves and their sex when Iago crudely attacks females as " wild-cats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries,devils being offended.............in your beds." (II.i 110) Emilia informs Iago " You shall not write my praise." Furthermore, Desdemona dismisses Iago's, boorish and lewd attack as "heavy ignorance" and his views of women as a "most lame and impotent conclusion!" Indeed she is quick to advise to her female companion, "Do not learn from him, Emilia, though he be thy husband," revealing again her strong-willed nature. This bawdy exchange between Desdemona and Iago has been viewed as controversial as some critics are uncomfortable with Desdemona participation. However, Shakepeare needed to convey her playful sexuality as Desdemona's sexual attractiveness is paramount to the plot, as it is this that leads Othello to question her fidelity. Desdemona has to defend herself constantly throughout the play. Firstly to her father for her choice of marrying Othello and then almost immediately she is put in the position of having to defend her fidelity to her husband. It is ironic that at the beginning of the play she is presented as a strong independent person but then has to convince her husband she in not too independent.

Conclusion

(V.I 122) Although the women are passive victims in the play it is noteworthy that Bianca the least powerful figure is ironically the only female survivor. Another display of Desdemona's strength of character is when Othello publicly hits her, rightly affirming, " I have not deserved this." However, Desdemona instead of staying and pleading more strongly of her innocence rather submissively leaves, " I will not stay to offend you." (IV.1) Without question, it is in the final two acts that Shakespeare strongly portrays Desdemona as a passive and loyal wife to her husband. She becomes almost resigned to her fate and prophetically pleads in the 'willow song' Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve." (IV.3) Moreover, even on her deathbed she tries to save Othello from blame, "Nobody - I myself - farewell." To conclude, Shakespeare presents the women in his play as hapless victims of the male characters in the play. He conveys their genuine love and loyalty to their respective partners, yet gives them a voice to speak of feminist issues. It is Shakespeare's portrayal of strong - willed women that probably has made his plays, and will continue to make his plays popular with audiences.

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