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It has been observed that men in Othello are portrayed as being incapable of selfless love. Discuss the ways in which this could be regarded as a feminist play.

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It has been observed that men in Othello are portrayed as being incapable of selfless love. Discuss the ways in which this could be regarded as a feminist play. "Othello" is a tragedy written in 1603 by William Shakespeare, whose writing reflected his concerns with the universal theme of love. It deals with the love between a father and a daughter, a husband and wife and in addition also the relationship between a man and a prostitute. The main focus for this theme is the portrayal of men and their inability to love selflessly. In response Shakespeare's female characters represent a direct challenge to dominant patriarchal authority. Consequently "Othello" can be regarded from a modern critical perspective as a feminist play. In "Othello" Shakespeare presents women as the victims of patriarchal society. Brabantio, a Venetian Senator, promoting control and order, sees Desdemona as a passive goddess and his property, "Stol'n from me, and corrupted". These words reveal his views on women and their status. Iago's reference to Desdemona's elopement "you're robbed" highlights the similarities in the way that both characters treat women. Iago insinuates that Brabantio's property has been taken away from him. When Brabantio admonishes Roderigo stating, "My daughter is not for thee" the audience begin to understand that Desdemona is not only his daughter but she is also his possession. Clearly Jacobean England would sympathise with Brabantio viewing the elopement as an act against patriarchy and denying a father the right to marry off his daughter as he sees fit. ...read more.


Brabantio portrays his daughter as being innocent and submissive, "Is there not charms By which the property of youth and maidhood May be abused". However, we see a dramatic change as she openly declares that she is ready for sexual intercourse, "The rites for which I love him are bereft me". Desdemona is assertive when verbally attacked by Othello. "I took you for that cunning whore of Venice". In contrast Desdemona's portrayal of herself "No, as I am a Christian..." expresses a conventional Christian perspective implying that adultery is wrong. Desdemona cannot understand why a woman would want to commit adultery. She is far from Iago's sexual stereotype of Venetian women as "subtle whores", rather, she plays an active feminine role as she is decribed as "half the wooer". A modern day feminist might argue that this behaviour is too obedient. Desdemona appears to be na�ve as she defends her husband when he strikes her. At first she says, "I have not deserved this". Othello's behaviour is out of character and as a result of Iago's insinuating words. Desdemona thereafter accepts the physical abuse and defends her husband. Lodovico analyses the situation and states, "Truly, an obedient lady". A modern audience would find this hard to comprehend. Shakespeare presents Desdemona as a woman who is thought of highly in the Venetian state. She is seen to be making her own choices but also appears to be a victim. Through the character of Cassio Shakespeare provides a critique of the discourse of courtly love. ...read more.


Their love was not based on trust, showing that the relationship was probably not as idealistic as the audience would have liked to think. Shakespeare presents Othello as a man who too readily accepted Iago's antifeminist perspective and then egotistically murdered Desdemona arguing that he was upholding justice, ensuring that she does not abuse other men. Othello's passionate words change to derogatory language, "subtle whore". As Iago makes Othello aware of Desdemona's power over him, it becomes understandable why he has the need to re-establish power-hence Desdemona's death. Othello is now in a position where he controls the situation. He reinstates his power as a man by leaving Desdemona feeling vulnerable and frightened. Shakespeare's female characters do not conform to stereotype. All three women have contrasting attitudes to men. In turn all three are treated differently in society. Desdemona is described as being a "fair wife", by Emilia the voice of truth, "So come my soul to bliss as I speak the truth" and Bianca is the representation of a powerless woman. She is the only female who is denied a voice showing that her silence determines her existence in society and that women are at the disposal of men. The male characters in Othello are incapable of selfless love. Iago is unable to love, stereotyping all women as whores. Conversely, Cassio idealises women as goddesses, however, hypocritically uses prostitutes. Othello's relationship with Desdemona seems to be based on mutual respect and love, however, we could argue that even he is incapable of putting his own pride before Desdemona. Shakespeare suggests that in Jacobean England women's position in society was dictated by men and female identity was constructed according to reductive stereotypes. ...read more.

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