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Othello: A Renaissance Play on Feminism

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R. Farmaha Ramandeep Farmaha Mr. Shirbegi ENG 2D8 20 April 2011 Othello: A Renaissance Play on Feminism The world-renown English playwright William Shakespeare once said: ?A woman is a dish for the gods, if the devil dress her not.? (Antony 5.2.270) This striking analogy of a woman being compared to the food of the gods, pure but easily corrupted, reinforces the idea that the English playwright was misogynistic and an anti-feminist. Iago?s remarks about women in Othello and Shakespeare?s above quotation about the corruption of women are two examples of misogyny in his plays. However, Shakespeare?s seemingly misogynistic remarks provoke women to fight for their rights, and are counteracted by the strong female characters in his plays. In Othello, Desdemona, Othello?s wife, is first seen when she defiantly opposes her father in order to marry her love, Othello. Desdemona continues to contradict the traditional mould of the damsel in distress when she deftly manipulates her love for Othello in order to reinstate Cassio, and argues against Iago about the role of women in society. ...read more.


Desdemona is an argument against misogynistic men who belittle women for being too passive and soft spoken in society. Shakespeare counteracts Desdemona?s angelic personality with Iago?s misogynistic character, when Desdemona defiantly opposes Iago, who demeans women in front of Desdemona and Emilia. Desdemona and Iago have a passionate argument about the role of women in Venetian society when Iago says, ?[Women] suckle fools and chronicle small beer.? In response, Desdemona cries, ?O, most lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband.? (Othello 2.1.157-159) Shakespeare personifies misogyny through Iago, who insults all women for being deceptive and having ulterior motives for their actions. Iago argues that the perfect woman should be someone whose sole purpose in life is to listen to her husband and raise children. Through Iago?s insults towards women, Shakespeare causes an outrage in the Elizabethan audience, as he quickly dismisses the roles of females in society as belligerent housewives. Shakespeare contrasts Iago?s blatant and rude remarks with Desdemona?s plea to stop coming to conclusions. ...read more.


Through Iago?s blunt speech, Shakespeare argues that women should be given more respect and authority in society, as they already make most decisions in their husband?s lives. Female characters have played the most important roles in many of Shakespeare?s plays. In the play, Othello, Desdemona is depicted as a strong and independent woman who sacrifices her life for what she believes in. Shakespeare?s creation of positive females in his plays introduced Elizabethan society to the idea of feminism. Shakespeare strived to educate the largely illiterate public about how women have equal or greater intelligence of men and how they should be properly treated and respected in society. The misogynistic characters in his plays helped promote and bring the issue of women?s rights to light in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare has always been regarded as the greatest playwright of the English language, however, most people downplay his advocacy for women?s rights. Shakespeare?s plays have radically changed the lives of people in both Elizabethan England and today, through plays that introduced controversial ideas, such as gender equality, for the whole world to enjoy. ...read more.

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