• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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 document...


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." ...read more.


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. ...read more.


(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. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Othello essays

  1. Free essay

    Do you think this is how Shakespeare wanted to portray or present the character?Samuel ...

    ulterior purpose' as mentioned by Coleridge and it becomes apparent that it may be because the malcontent is dissatisfied with his own monotonous life. Iago can be any member of society; he has a wife, Emilia, and a reasonably superior position in the army, as Othello's ensign.

  2. Explore how Shakespeare presents Iago as an evil villain

    While their lives fall apart around them, Iago immediately arrives on the scene to give a word of advice, which is why so many times he is referred to as 'Honest Iago'. He toys with their emotions, changes their priorities to fit his own and works his black magic on them all.

  1. Examine how Shakespeare presents power in the play with particular reference to Act 3, ...

    The audience can see Iagos manipulation in action as he shouts towards Brabantio that Othello has taken his daughter away signifying it to be a bad thing with his choice of words " Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves!" indicating towards Othello that he is something so hideous and that Brabantio needs to take action.

  2. Examine the ways in which Shakespeare presents the changed character of Othello.

    The large number of interrogative sentences shows Othello's weakness and confusion whereas the number of exclamative sentences shows Othello's raw emotion and distress. In previous situations when we have expected Othello to be distressed e.g. the confrontation with Brabantio explored above, he has acted calmly and rationally.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work