In my opinion, women in the play ‘Othello’ by William Shakespeare are displayed to be somewhat subservient and respectful towards the male characters, which appear to have an elevated status over women. They are often rendered, in particular by Iago, to be untrustworthy, self-serving and lustful, when in actual fact they are indifferent to reputation and partially free of vanity, jealousy, and competitiveness, unlike the male characters and often show strength and independence. Early in the play Desdemona is described by her father to be: ‘A maiden never bold; of spirit so quiet that her motion blushed at herself,’
This quotation suggests the idealised view of women, to be passive and ‘never bold. ‘ This highlights male dominance in the play. Desdemona contradicts this however by saying: ‘And so much duty my mother showed to you, preferring you before my father, so much I challenge , that I may profess due to the Moor, my lord. ‘ In this quotation Desdemona shows her strong side and independence but still shows respect to her father by calling him ‘my lord. ‘ This shows Desdemona is aware of her father’s power over her, but still stands up for herself and her needs.Order now
In this quotation she appears decisive and confident. The word ‘duty’ is used showing Desdemona’s subservience towards Othello. Desdemona similarly shows this bold decisiveness when she demands ‘let me go with him’ when she wants to go to Cyprus with. Desdemona may be considered here as perhaps a little disobedient as her wants are not traditional in the sense that a woman of an Elizabethan relationship would be expected to stay at home whilst her husband went away to fight. I believe Desdemona to be naÃ¯ve to expect Othello to carry out the duties of both a Solider and Husband simultaneously.
Her obedience and strength as a female character is truly shown when she sticks up for herself when Othello strikes her by saying: ‘I have not deserved this. ‘ Yet she tells him: ‘I will not stay to offend you. ‘ This shows Desdemona has dropped her bold independent attitude and has submitted herself to Othello allowing him to control her actions. Additionally, and despite the fact that Othello betrayed their love, Desdemona has remained persistently loyal to him and to the very end. This emphasises women’s loving attitude towards there husbands.
Whereas Othello acknowledges his dominance over her and uses it to his advantage. He uses imperative speech when he says ‘get out of my site! ‘ Emilia similarly professes such loyalty to her husband, above that of her loyalty to Desdemona when she steals Desdemona’s handkerchief, professing: ‘What he will do with it, heaven knows, not I: I nothing but to please his fantasy. ‘ This similarly suggests that Emilia is incredulously loyal to her husband, even though she does not know the consequences of her actions. This emphasises the situation, that women had to just do what they were told and not question male authority.
Emilia is portrayed as a lot less naÃ¯ve than Desdemona as she appears to have a realistic about how women treat men, as she laments: ‘They are all but stomachs, and we all but food. ‘ This shows Emilia’s resentment towards the elevated status of men over women. She is similarly scorned by her husband Iago who refers to her as a ‘common thing’ and a ‘foolish wife’ and similarly to Othello uses imperative speech when he tells Emilia to ‘Go, leave me. ‘ Showing authority over her. Bianca similarly shows resentment towards men’s control over her as she tells Cassio when he asks her to make a copy of the handkerchief, ‘I’ll take no work on it. But she shows emotional attachment and loyalty towards him when she thinks he has been hurt:
‘O, my dear Cassio, my sweet Cassio, O Cassio, Cassio, Cassio! ‘ Here repetition of Cassio’s name is used showing strong feelings of concern and need towards Cassio from Bianca. On the other hand Bianca is put down by men in the novel by characters such as Cassio as he refers to Bianca as ‘unwholesome’ a ‘bauble’ suggesting she is just for decoration and is of no real value to him. He expresses contempt towards her to Iago when he states: ‘I Marry her! What! A customer! ‘
The term ‘customer’ used suggests he is just using her and does not have true feelings for her. In all I have came to the conclusion that the male characters profess dominance over the female characters, but in actual fact the women are the stronger and more loving characters and often profess this independence throughout the novel. This emphasises how women were treated unfairly and ungratefully by men, who appear to use the kindness and devotion of women as their weakness. The fact the women are all eventually taken over by men, as Emilia and Desdemona are killed by men and Bianca is taken away, in my opinion emphasises the faults of men.