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In Your Opinion Does Shakespeare Marginalise Women, or Praise Their Strengths?

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Do you believe that Shakespeare victimises and marginalises women or praises their independence and strength? Shakespeare's Othello contains only three female characters, Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca. There are many ways of interpreting these three antagonistic characters and their roles in the play. However, before we can undertake this task we have to assess the reasons behind Shakespeare's inclusion of such females. Depending on whether we take a modern reading of the play or a periodic one can change our feelings towards these three women. For example, a modern day reading of Emilia standing up to Iago, means she did the right thing and therefore Shakespeare is praising her, but a periodic reading would show her as immoral and he is therefore victimising her, and pushing her to the edges of society. Despite the connection of women to Iago's schemes, they are neither the targets nor the stimulus for his revenge. Instead, they are relegated to tertiary roles. Nevertheless, the women still suffer the most from Iago's plans. Beyond Desdemona's obvious objectification, the women in the play are defined in sexual terms, for example Bianca is portrayed as a prostitute as Cassio refers to her as 'A customer'. ...read more.


This stereotypical view of women highlights how Shakespeare believes women are inferior to men, a common view of society in the seventeenth century, showing how he too marginalises women and leaves them on the edge of society. However, some people argue that Shakespeare in fact, praises women's independence and strength through the inclusion of characters such as Bianca, who do not rely on men; she is the only female survivor, suggesting that Shakespeare believes women can survive in the patriarchal society, by themselves, independent of men. Initially we are presented with a picture of powerful womanhood from Desdemona; a daughter who has deceived her father and asserted her independence from patriarchy by choosing her own husband, 'my noble father...You are Lord of all my duty...but here's my husband; and so much duty.' highlighting how she is strong enough to be able to defend herself in the face of such public scrutiny. Furthermore, it can be argued that Iago despises Desdemona due to his mixed feelings of fear and loathing. It is possible to argue part of his contempt of Othello is located in his fear that Desdemona has power; he's been displaced by a female. ...read more.


given due to her speech about infidelity, 'who would not make her husband a cuckold, to make him a monarch?', highlighting how Emilia would commit adultery if It got her husband the world. Yet, when looked at it this way, it can be argued that Shakespeare praises women's strength, as she does not do it to gain for herself, but so that her husband gains. Overall, having looked at all the evidence it is clear to see there are many possible interpretations of Shakespeare's views on women. It is clear that he victimises them by under-representing them in the play and allowing their masculine qualities to be their downfall, for example Desdemona's power, however it is clear that Shakespeare does recognise that women do have independence and strength as the women are portrayed as wise and moral whereas men are depicted as immoral and bestial. This is what society was like at the time; highly patriarchal, yet Shakespeare appears to sympathise with women in Othello and paint them in a positive light. 'Desdemona has been demonized, but the true demons are those let loose by Iago to breed and multiply in the play's fertile medium of patriarchy.' Jordan Boyd-Graber ...read more.

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