Portrayal of Women in Othello
Anmol Paudel Eng3UO 6th March 2014 Portrayal of Women in Othello Women are one of the powerful aspects of the society. They also are unit of our society and are equally important as man. As, per conception of the people women are created as a companion for men or vice-versa. Women plays the role like mother, sister, daughter, wife with a great responsibilities. Years back in the 15, 16 century women were more behind than men, the society was male dominating and the main purpose of women was to serve their men.
As famous author “William Shakespeare” in his play Othello has express that the women are the combination of love, power, loyal and obedient, even if when it comes to the matter of life and death they are not afraid to reveal the truth. The character Desdemona has shown her loyalty, and has become obedient towards her husband Othello, and the second character Emilia has shown her loyalty and her duties, responsibilities towards her husband and mistress.
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And Bianca in the play is shown as working girl (prostitute) of low class which she falls in love with Cassio (lieutenant).
Therefore, we can summarize that William Shakespeare portrayed women in a stereotypical role as the source of being honest and as powerful as men in the world of males in which they have to face their harsh time and he has also shows the role of the women in the particular society. Firstly, as Desdemona express her feelings and loyalty towards her husband (Othello). To begin, the above statement when the duke ask Desdemona to convey her message to the senate about Othello and her relationship in the council in front of her father she says: I do perceive here a divided duty:
To you I am bound for life and education; My life and education both do learn me How to respect you. You are my lord of all my duty; I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband; And so much duty as my mother show’d To you, preferring you before her father, So much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor my lord. (I. iii. 179-188) This quote of Desdemona can prove that how much she is into Othello and how much she respect and is loyal to her father. Above all, she also says that even she has to face death before her to love Othello she is ready to do it.
However she deceived her father but the genius Shakespeare has shown her love towards the Moor that we cannot even count that she has drop her father status in the Venetian society by marrying a black man without the permission of her father. Again, after Cassio loses his reputation and he was kicked away from the post of lieutenant by Othello, Cassio goes to the general’s wife (Desdemona) to gain the post back if she can help him, as he is manipulated by Iago. And when he asks Desdemona she replies as: Do not doubt that. Before Emilia here,
I give thee warrant of thy place. Assure thee If I do vow a friendship, I’ll perform it To the last article. My lord shall never rest, I’ll watch him tame and talk him out of patience; His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift; I’ll intermingle every thing he does With Cassio’s suit. Therefore be merry, Cassio; Thy solicitor shall rather die Than give thy cause away. (III. iii. 19-28) In this quote she expresses her sympathy for Cassio for being accused in front of everybody and promise to Cassio to return his post as a favor to a friend.
In addition, she also swear to him to do everything that a friend can do to save one’s post and if takes to the circumstance of relationship between Desdemona and Othello and even it is the matter of life and death, than also she is going to keep her words. This shows that an obedient and a loyal friend can even play with fire or face death to save one’s life. Shakespeare has shown the friendly relationship between Cassio and Desdemona in which the suspicion of Othello increases that leads to the great massacre (chaos) in which Desdemona have to lose her life due to the commitment to her friendship.
And after she is stab by Othello than also she commits her husband as the incarnation of God, and save him by saying that she committed suicide, “Nobody; I myself. Farewell. / Commend me to my kind lord. O farewell! ” (V. ii. 125-126). She shows far phenomenal strength than her husband that she never ruin the vows in marriage that she committed to do nothing wrong to her husband and always to love and serve him. Desdemona’s these lines is one of the finest line in the play which shows the love and affection towards one’s beloved and compared to Othello it seems him a pathetic excuse for him.
Furthermore, she also ask him to take care of her even after her death to the Moor which establish how much she love, respect him. In addition, to this, a secondary source in which the author, Holmer, Joan Ozark has added the following quote in his article (Desdemona, Woman Warrior: “O, these men, these men! “): Unkindness may do much. And his unkindness may defeat my life But never taint my love. (Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England; 2005, Vol. 17, p132-164, 33p) This explains that even if the suspicion of Othello take her life but her love for Othello is same and always be same.
She express herself as a love that cannot be broken apart and thus the trait (negativity) has kill her but not his love. So by this, Shakespeare through Desdemona reveals that express that love is the most powerful, than anything and it is prove she is loyal and honest to her husband. In this instant there is no doubt that how much she deserve respect. Therefore, Shakespeare has portrays Desdemona as the symbol of love, loyalty and innocent. Secondly, Emilia is the clever and is loyal woman in this play and has shown her responsibility towards her husband and her mistress.
To start, when Desdemona drop the handkerchief by negligence Emilia takes it up and bring it to the Iago, “NO, faith; she let it drop by negligence, / And to th’advantage I being here took’t up. / Look, here it is. ” (III. iii. 313-315). Even the audience knows that she has not stolen the handkerchief, she just pick it up and bring it to her husband as he had ask for her to steel it. In this scene she keeps her words not knowing that the significance of giving the handkerchief to Iago.
Shakespeare shows in these lines that knowingly she takes the handkerchief just satisfy her husband so that he would show affection to her that a wise man should give his woman. This proves the loyalty, respect towards Iago by Emilia. As a strong character, Emilia also begins to defence the status (name/fame) of woman as the play moves ahead. When she talks with Desdemona she expresses her real meaning for (of) man. Emilia slowly begins to support her mistress and becomes far from husband and the moment after Othello strikes Desdemona, Emilia speaks of her mind, What is that they do When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it? I think it doth. Is’t frailty that thus errs? It is so too. And have not we affections, Despires for sport, and frailty, as men have? Then let them use us well; else let them know The ills we do, their ills instruct us so. (IV. iii. 94-101). And describe man as only the user of woman and they deserve the curse of their mistakes, she explains about the capabilities, power of women that one can make her man ill if he is misusing her. And in this line Shakespeare portrays, that her crass, tawdry language warns men that one should better take a good care of his woman and treat her nicely and equally.
As the play goes on Othello kills Desdemona and when Emilia is going to reveal the truth she is threaten by Iago to go to home but she disobey him, Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak. ‘Tis proper I obey him, but not now. Perchance, Iago, I will ne’er go home. (V. ii. 194-196) And reveals the truth. Though it was the matter of her life and death but also without caring about it she reveals the truth and do a great favor to Desdemona, so that Othello can realizes his mistake and the love of Desdemona towards him.
She dies the death of honour. As her mistress was already dead she would have not revealed the truth but also she deceived her husband and revealed it because to keep up her reputation her responsibilities, as a woman to another woman (Desdemona as her mistress). It shows that even if woman are in high or low post they can be good company between each other, like Desdemona and Emilia but in case of man, like between Othello and Iago there is always a rivalry and Iago is jealous of Othello but Emilia is not, instead she dies for Desdemona.
So, Shakespeare has portrays Emilia as one of the strong character in the play that he mentioned through Emilia that women should not rely on men instead they should be more independent, strong and bold. Lastly, the character Bianca is obedient character in which she falls for Cassio. When she sees new handkerchief in Cassio’s hand she becomes jealous of that and become so curious about it and ask him, O Cassio, whence came this? This is some token from a newer friend. To the felt absence now I feel a cause.
Is’t come to this? Well, well. (III. Iv. 174-177). In this line audience can notice that how much Bianca is into Cassio, how much she care about him and she is jealous to see a handkerchief in his hand. This shows that even if Bianca is working woman but also she too care for Cassio and wants to be love by him. As there is not much role of Bianca in this play but when Cassio is hurt by Rodrigo than at that time she says, “O, my dear Cassio, my sweet Cassio! / O, Cassio, Cassio, Cassio! ” (V. i. 76-77).
This shows her affection towards Cassio even if Cassio discriminated Bianca with Iago previously but also she fall for her. And when she is called strumpet by Emilia she refuses that and confront to be honest. Shakespeare portrays Bianca as despite of being whore she has a heart and which is for Cassio. In conclusion, Shakespeare has portrays woman as in the dominating creature in this play, thus, the main women Desdemona and Emilia dies but also they play a vital role in the play which shows love, power and dignity of the women of that time.
He has compared three different class of women and their perspective towards men. He has portrays different side of women from these three different character. He has shown that woman can be as soft or harmless as Desdemona or Bianca and they can also be as invincible (bitter) as Emilia. And he has portrays the problem that women faces at that time and he gives the main theme that women should be treated equally as men, through this play Othello.