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Each reading of Othello establishes certain values. How have such values been explored in Feminist and Marxist readings of Othello?

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English - Othello Essay Each reading of Othello establishes certain values. How have such values been explored in Feminist and Marxist readings of Othello? Shakespeare's works continue to promote intellectual discussion across all spectrums of academic discourse; the universality of their themes culminate in the excellently crafted play Othello. The multi faceted nature of such a text allows for many interpretations and readings; a feminist reading of Othello examines how the patriarchal nature of Venetian society manifests itself and works to label women who behave outside expected norms. A Marxist reading considers the effect of a class struggle, seeing Iago as part of the oppressed working class, taking advantage of the system set before him to overthrow the ruling elite. Both readings are equally valid, holding values intrinsic to discovering new meanings hidden within the text and beyond. The 1970's represented a dynamic decade in World politics and saw a rise in feminism. Like other concurrent social movements concerning peace, civil rights, ecological issues and gay rights, this women's movement challenged long-held assumptions about the distribution of power in society. A feminist interpretation of Othello focuses on the attitudes towards women; the way in which their sexuality is transferred into whoredom and their role in regards to men, is specified from birth - evident in Iago's assertion "You rise to play, and go to bed to work". In the beginning of the play we see a racial slur from Iago towards Brabantio, Desdemona's Father. ...read more.


As Marilyn French in "The Women's Roan" points out, "Women may get jealous as well as men; but they have no power, and their jealousy is dismissed with scorn." Another insightful interpretation and perspective is the Marxist reading. Marxism is a 20th century doctrine that arose through the ideologies and teachings of Karl Marx during a contemptuous age fed up with their grievances over capitalism. Marxists believe that economic system is the determining factor in history; the role that different classes play in the process of production drives historical development. Marxist discourse can be applied to Othello by inspecting the ways in which class affects the course of events. We can separate the characters into three sections, namely; The Elizabethan aristocracy, meaning those born into wealth and power, such as Brabantio and Rodregio; The rising classes, such as Othello and Cassio - those who worked to rise from their set place in society; The humanists, namely Iago, who believed that they could control their own fate by initiating struggle and overthrow. Othello, the central figure of the play, has overthrown his set place in society as a black man by earning a position of power, and influencing Desdemona, originally part of the aristocracy, to deny the values of obligation towards her father and society. He epitomises the shift in ideology in regards to the established hierarchy that Marx viewed as necessary in order to create revolution. ...read more.


Many Marxist readings have ignored the value and place of women within the text; the women in Othello are integral to the representation of the class struggle as they also reject accepted codes of behaviour. After close review of both readings, their validity and value become obvious in the greater understanding of such media and their contexts. The feminist reading however - standing with ideas that parallel Othello's core values - is far more credible. A reason why I have not included quotes for my Marxist reading is because it is solely an interpretation of the social environment. I do not believe Marx's ideology can be applied so literally to a text if one is to gain understanding of its circumstances. This essentially turns into fundamentalist Marxism; I do not believe a Marxist discourse can be of benefit without subjectivity. To be blunt, there is no need to conduct a feminist reading in order to see the already imminent feminist undertones. Throughout the play there are many connotations towards femininity. The implications of such attitudes are much more prominent in Othello and thus show its closer relation to the texts superficial themes. Thus the feminist reading has more relevance to Othello and its context than the Marxist. The value of these and other perspectives enables the reader to discover and consider new intellectual insights which enlarge former perceptions of the play in its responders. Each reading - whether Racial, Feminist, Aristotelian or Marxist - holds, like the Othello itself, a number of merits and insights into society. ...read more.

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