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In Othello Shakespeare presents a society in which there is one form of morality and justice for men and an entirely different one for women.

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Introduction

In Othello Shakespeare presents a society in which there is one form of morality and justice for men and an entirely different one for women. Do you agree? Examine IV.III In Othello the protagonists are subject to rigid divisions between male and female expectations and often have to sacrifice themselves for it. The play confronts traditional principles which would have been central to the Jacobean public. Throughout the play Shakespeare outlines the social obligations which drive the characters' lives as well as destinies. Men are expected to fulfil different roles in the society than women. The play challenges honesty and sexuality and tests moral values of the characters and the ideals of justice. Although initially presented as often being completely for men and women, visible links between the moralities' of the two sexes are drawn which forces the Jacobean audience and modern reader to reconsider their moral principles and judgements. In addition, Shakespeare reveals the influence of social standing on the character's morality, which often overrides that of gender. The differences in sexual morality and justice between men and women are explored in the play. The importance of sexual interactions is evident in all the relationships between the characters, however the attitude towards sexuality is not the same for men and women. ...read more.

Middle

Although Desdemona was loyal and submissive to Othello, he decided to kill her out of his personal fear of her promiscuity. Emilia, on the other hand, was stabbed by Cassio because she wanted to "seek truth" in his actions. The two murders display women as victims of chauvinism and inequality of their rights. Despite the differences in treatment of women by men in the play, Emilia is the only character in the play that faces social conventions and proves that the two sexes deserve equal morality. In her conversation with Desdemona Emilia fights for equality and states that men should not deserve better fate as "their wives have sense like them". This comparison would have shocked the Jacobean audience for two reasons. Not only it challenges the position of a male status in the society, but also suggests that it is equal to that of a woman, which challenges traditional views of gender. Emilia is the voice of an oppressed woman; she challenges deeply established society's approach and points that "have not we affections, desires for sport and frailty, as men have". Her evidence of similarly between men's and women's desires and weaknesses suggests that morality that they receive should be the same. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Othello Shakespeare uses different relationships and marriages to articulate the imbalance of justice for men and women in the Jacobean society. Women were expected to reject their sexual desires and remain submissive. The characters were obliged to live their lives according the social conventions and those that do not fulfil their duties would fall. Desdemona and Emilia are used in the play to present the unquestionable male dominance which operated at the time. Emilia is killed because she directly challenged her husband's orders as well as status. Despite being a loyal and obedient wife, still shares Emilia's fate. Their murder emphasises that within society male and female morals were not only different, but often for women almost inexistent. Although Desdemona tried to follow all her moral obligations she still failed in the eyes of a man. It was Othello who was the judge of her morality and devotion, stressing male supremacy. It is largely the challenges to their dominance which the male characters face that lead to their final fall. The inability to accept female opinion and influence in their lives, men prefer to destroy them than to submit, stressing the lack of equality in the morality between men and women. Contemporary culture is still based on defined feminine and masculine values, which demonstrates that gender inequality is still a major issue even in modern society. ...read more.

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