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Compare and Contrast the roles of Women as represented in the Play 'Othello'

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Compare and Contrast the roles of Women as represented in the Play 'Othello' There are three main female characters in 'Othello:' Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca. Each one represents a different kind of women and so there are obvious contrasts. However, underneath their different social rankings we find quite a few similarities. Desdemona is the wife of Othello and the daughter of Brabantio, a Venetian aristocrat, and stays loyal to Othello until he kills her. In her death however, despite her relative loyalty, she still receives the ultimate punishment for going behind her father's back. This would have been considered a very serious betrayal in Elizabethan times especially because her father was a Venetian aristocrat and it would be interpreted by the audience as a huge failure for her to do something improper such as this. The play shows Desdemona as a perfect Elizabethan woman except for the one betrayal of her Father. This is shown by how she stays loyal to Othello even when she is dying. "And have you mercy too!-I never did Offend you in my life". This demonstrates how she is pleading for her life yet shows her loyalty. When Emilia questions who killed her she replies "Nobody, I myself" to protect Othello even though he had killed her, demonstrating Desdemona's loyalty to Othello throughout the play even up until her death. ...read more.


"What will you give me now For that same handkerchief?" The fact that Iago obtained this handkerchief was crucial in allowing him to convince Othello that Cassio was cheating with Desdemona. This means that in Emilia's loyalty to her husband and Elizabethan conventions, she has unknowingly betrayed her closest friend Desdemona. However, despite helping Iago execute his plot, she finally denies his will by revealing his plot and in so doing, challenges Elizabethan ideas of women. "Tis proper I obey him, but not now". This goes against the Protestant view of the time that women were expected to follow the dictates of their husbands without complaint. Emilia disobeys Iago's command to go home and carries on for which she is killed by her husband. This is similar to the fate of Desdemona in that for both Emilia and Desdemona, their one betrayal of the important men in their lives cost them their lives, even though they were totally loyal otherwise. This also continues the theme of women being abused in Othello as Emilia is used by Iago firstly to get the handkerchief of Desdemona that was vital to his plan, and then he kills her for her one betrayal just as Desdemona is repeatedly abused despite only one incident that was considered wrong. ...read more.


Bianca was similar to the other female in characters in that she was used and abused by the male characters. For example when Cassio orders her, "Go to, woman! Throw your vile guesses in the devil's teeth." Her relationship with Cassio is less idealistic than that of Desdemona and Othello but she is still a genuine and loving partner. "Save you, friend Cassio!" This demonstrates her fond affection for Cassio even if it is not an ideal relationship. Ironically, despite Bianca's position in the lowest social standing of the three main women, she is the only surviving woman of the play. To conclude, there are both similarities and differences in the roles of the three main female characters in 'Othello.' Desdemona is the heroine, Emilia the earthy matron and Bianca the prostitute. They suffer at the hands of powerful men in their society, but all exhibit admirable qualities of loyalty and commitment despite this. Two of the women are destroyed by the end of the play and masculine power seems on the face of it to triumph. But this masculine power is not condoned by Shakespeare. All three women are in fact portrayed as having an inner strength which shows itself right up to the moment of death in the case of Desdemona. I feel overall that the similarities are more striking and memorable than the differences between the roles of the three main female characters in 'Othello.' ...read more.

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