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Othello has been called a ‘domestic tragedy’. What part do the three women play in the drama and how should they be portrayed in order to achieve maximum impact for a modern audience?

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Othello has been called a 'domestic tragedy'. What part do the three women play in the drama and how should they be portrayed in order to achieve maximum impact for a modern audience? A domestic tragedy takes place in a personal setting. In Othello, the men are in Cyprus to fight a war. However, the tragedy is the events within the relationships of the central characters. There is little discussion of the war and, although Desdemona blames state matters for Othello's change in behaviour, the real problems Othello faces are matters of the heart. The women in the play have no part in the war, but still their presence contributes to the downfall of both Othello and Iago, creating repercussions for the state. The historical context of the play is important when considering the female characters contained in it. The play was first performed in 1604 at the start of the reign of King James I. It is generally thought that wives were expected to be obedient to their husbands at this time, and play the "maiden never bold", as Desdemona is described by her father in Act One, scene three. However, the time of the play's first performance was shortly after the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth never married and is known to have been of strong character. It is therefore likely that a strong-willed female character would have been accepted by an audience of this time. A feature of the play that should be considered is the misogyny shown by the male characters. ...read more.


She is also more cynical and far less romantic in her views. In her conversation with Desdemona about unfaithful women, she openly admits that she would be unfaithful to her husband if the whole world were her reward. Lianne Evans "who would not make her husband a cuckold, to make him a monarch?" Emilia knows that love and men are not as ideal as Desdemona believes them to be. When Othello's behaviour towards Desdemona changes, Emilia, unlike Desdemona realises that something is wrong with the relationship and that Desdemona should not let Othello treat her in such a way. "I would you had never seen him." She stands for strength and common sense, and her views about marriage show this clearly. "Let husbands know Their wives have sense like them". Bianca represents a quite impure love within Othello. She shows that she loves Cassio, but her lifestyle as a prostitute also shows this as quite corrupt. She represents the opposite of the innocent and na�ve Desdemona. She is a woman with no responsibility to anyone but herself in the play. She has a relationship with Cassio but her reputation does not allow this to be taken seriously by anyone, including Cassio himself. She represents a love with few morals. Desdemona believes in completely faithful, perfect love, Emilia believes that being unfaithful is acceptable for a large price and Bianca, although she seems to care greatly about Cassio, has still made her living as a prostitute. ...read more.


In general, a modern audience can sympathise with all the women in the play. All, despite their strengths, suffer at the hands of the men in their lives. Desdemona's unfaltering belief in pure love only results in Othello's killing her. Emilia's loyalty and strength leads her to being murdered, also by her own husband. Bianca's love for Cassio only brings her ridicule. In a modern society this supports the radical feminist view that no relationship with a man is beneficial to a woman. Each woman displays different feminine qualities. Desdemona's approach is obedience, Emilia's is loyalty and Bianca's, persistence, but none of these bring them any rewards. The women in Othello are so often misunderstood. The majority of criticism on the play is written by males and there is very little comment on the female characters at all. This has led to difficulty in performing these characters to create a Lianne Evans maximum impact with a modern audience. However, their roles are clear. They all show the negative qualities in the male characters, but at the same time have an effect on their lives. The play is a domestic tragedy but the effects of the domestic lives of the characters are shown in all aspects of their lives. The misunderstanding of Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, within the play and in audiences has led to misinterpretations of their characters. To create a maximum impact with a modern audience, the female characters need to be given their own personality, and the effects they have need to be shown. Without the women going to war with their husbands, the tragedy of Othello would be a very different one. ...read more.

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