• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10

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.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Othello essays

  1. At the start of Act III, Scene III, Othello declares his love for Desdemona, ...

    Is this a motive for Iago's behaviour? Are all of Iago's actions down to jealousy and hatred, for someone having what he wants, the security of a stable relationship? This could possibly be one of the reasons Iago sets out to ruin Othello's life, because he is jealous.

  2. Is Othello a 'noble hero' brought down by 'a devil of motiveless malignity' or ...

    Othello's reputation also plays a big role in this play and the outcome of it. He has the reputation of a no nonsense military general. This status in fact partly causes Desdemona's death. He becomes so distraught when he hears from Iago that Cassio and Desdemona and cheating on him he becomes angry and wants to kill her.

  1. Are Desdemona and Emilia passive acceptors of fate or can they be seen as ...

    Desdemona does accept however that she will obey Othello's authority and explicitly states this by saying, "My heart's subdued //Even to the most utmost pleasure of my lord." The use of the word "lord" shows not only her respect towards Othello, but also her now being a 'passive' character.

  2. How Desdemona is presented as acharacter and perceived by others in Othello.

    As a father he doesn't want to believe she has moved on. Desdemona's first speech in the second scene shed a new light on her that moves away from the innocent and passive opinion others have of her. 'My noble father, I do perceive here a divided duty.'

  1. The women in Othello are presented by Shakespeare as victims. To what extent do ...

    She completes a mischievous deed for Iago, displaying her loyalty and desperation for any sort of love shown back to her. Desdemona seems to be praised a lot during the first act. But in fact, she is treated like an object. Iago says to Brabantio "Zounds Sir, you've been robbed."

  2. "Othello and Desdemona's marriage doesn't stand a chance." Discuss.

    The fact that she quite clearly takes her husbands side shows she want to uphold his respect, and again her love for him. Desdemona seems very proud of this marriage despite anyone's opinions, which shows the strong companionship and a very optimistic marriage.

  1. How was Othello(TM)s and Desdemona(TM)s relationship doomed from the start?

    Rodrigo's proposals for Desdemona, he had wished that she had married him instead. These characters all speak about Othello with contempt and disrespect, undermining Othello's position in the Venetian army and the respect he receives from the Duke. Not only that, they are declining any possibilities of pure love between

  2. Othello is a black man in a white society. How does his status as ...

    him, until later in the play when manipulated enough to become aggressive. Othello was polite and understanding, he realised that he was not Venetian but rather an outsider as he said "Rude am I in my speech". Othello understood that he did not speak like Iago or Cassio in complex,

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work