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"What is particularly dramatic about Act4, Scene 3 of 'Othello'? Explore the relationship between the two women themselves and their relationships with their husbands here and elsewhere.

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Introduction

Frederick Verne, 10L Shakespeare/pre-1914 Drama Coursework "What is particularly dramatic about Act4, Scene 3 of 'Othello'? Explore the relationship between the two women themselves and their relationships with their husbands here and elsewhere. Do you think Shakespeare himself is 'putting down' women or is he just portraying a male attitude of his time?" Act 4 Scene 3 of 'Othello' is clearly a pivotal scene in Shakespeare's tragedy - in the previous scene Othello has accused Desdemona to her face of adultery, with Emilia present. In scene 3 the women come to terms with the changes present in the mind of Othello, discuss men's treatment of females in general and, through this exchange that deals with this delicate topic, reach a deeper understanding of and level of communication with each other. In order to consider the role of women in 'Othello' (and therefore the dramatic quality of Act 4 Scene 3), we must first understand the context in which Shakespeare has chosen to set the play within. His main characters have all been brought up as Venetians, and the city of Venice would be well-known to an Elizabethan audience as being the 'pleasure capital' of Europe. Many of the theatre-goers would never have travelled overseas and stereotype would form much of their opinion of foreigners - Venetian women in particular were as being sexually loose. ...read more.

Middle

Through her singing of the song Desdemona displays more innocence, more simplicity. It signifies the collapse of language and her reaching for a non-spoken form of communication/expression. Incidentally, the song lyrics mention a sycamore tree alongside the more traditionally mournful willow. Perhaps it is a pun (sick-amour, sick-a-Moor) or perhaps it is just a tragic device of Shakespeare's (Romeo was found in a grove of sycamore when lovesick). Throughout the song Desdemona is nervous and edgy ("Hark! Who is't that knocks?"), this mood being transferred to the audience. For all of this scene the main focus has been on Desdemona. She has led the conversation into dark and melancholy areas, with Emilia attempting to calm her and keep things normal. Now Desdemona asks Emilia's opinion on marital abuse and deceit, and Emilia starts to show a darker side to her character. She has suffered for some time from the emotional neglect and public scorn of husband Iago, as shown particularly in her entrance in Act 2 Scene 1, Iago saying of her "She puts her tongue a little in her heart and chides without thinking." Emilia mildly attempts to defend herself, but Iago continues to verbally abuse her before the others. Later in Act 3 Scene 3 when Emilia has stolen Desdemona's handkerchief "to please his fantasy" he enters and before he knows what she has done for him says that "It is a common thing...to have a foolish wife." ...read more.

Conclusion

Similarly, the women (particularly Emilia) and given strong characters that protest against the system. However, given the traditional views of the audience that were likely to be held, Shakespeare could never allow these strong female characters to partake in the 'happy ending' awarded to the Self. They all become controlled in some manner, a few examples being Hermia, Helena and Titania ('A Midsummer Night's Dream'), Lady Macbeth ('Macbeth'), Ophilia ('Hamlet') and Rosalind ('As You Like It'). These people all end the play married or killed. In 'Othello', Othello himself changes from the learned, cultured man to the stereotypical black man (acting upon feeling rather than knowledge). However, the debate still remains that either Shakespeare is 'putting down' feminist ideas by having these controlled and broken by the end of the play, or that he is in support of those ideas and is using the characters of Emilia and the early Othello (who will be corrupted by the self, thus turning the audience's world on its head) to support them. Indeed, by even allowing these characters to air their views in their own rights surely counts as a vote of encouragement for their causes. The play could be used as evidence for either argument, with Act 4 Scene 3 being crucial to the plot, pivotal to the roles of the women, and its dramatic quality heightened by the possibility of it being a medium for Shakespeare's own views at that period. ...read more.

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