Essay on The Manipulation of Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Othello

:: 11 Works Cited
Length: 4758 words (13.6 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Blue      
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Manipulation of Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Othello

Of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, the story of the rise and fall of the Moor of Venice arguably elicits the most intensely personal and emotional responses from its English-speaking audiences over the centuries. Treating the subject of personal human relationships, the tragedy which should have been a love story speaks to both reading and viewing audiences by exploring the archetypal dramatic values of love and betrayal. The final source of the tragic action in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice has been attributed to various psychological, mythical, racial, social sources: Othello’s status as racial outsider in Venetian society, his pagan roots in Christian society, hubris and/or hamartia in Othello or in Desdemona.

While any of these interpretations no doubt helps to inform fuller discussion of the play, I would like to focus the question of the cause of this tragedy in another area: the realm of gender. I will argue that the tragedy occurs as a result of the protagonists’ overwhelming adherence to their society’s stereotyped gender roles and that Iago further encourages and manipulates these gender roles to his own ends. In this essay, I use the word “gender” to describe those physical, biological, behavioral, verbal, textual, mythic, and power dynamic cues that signal to others in the society, specifically the society of this play, that one is perceived as belonging or not belonging to a specific category of masculine or feminine (Bornstein 26-30). I will also use Kate Bornstein’s definition of “gender roles”: the “positions and actions specific to a given gender as defined by a culture” (26). Iago is a gender trickster, subtly and subver...

... middle of paper ...

...lifornia State University Bakersfield, 1996.

Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage Books, Inc., 1990.

Proser, Matthew N. The Heroic Image in Five Shakespearean Tragedies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Rose, Mary Beth. The Expense of Spirit: Love and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. New York: Bantam Books, 1988.

Stewart, J.I.M. Character and Motive in Shakespeare: Some Recent Appraisals Examined. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1966.

Whallon, William. Inconsistencies: Studies in the New Testament, the Inferno, Othello, and Beowulf. Totowa, New Jersey: D. S. Brewer, 1983.

Wine, Martin L. Othello: Text and Performance. London: MacMillan, 1984.

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Essay on Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Othello - Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Othello       Othello represents a prime example of Shakespeare's ability to develop relationships between the sexes so as to demonstrate those relationships' weaknesses. In Othello, the sexes are divided by misconceptions and ego- centric views of the opposite gender. The men of the play, in particular Othello, maintain a patriarchal, chivalric notion of the sexes, while the women of the play yearn for more involvement in their husbands' affairs. So it is that the thrust of the play emerges from "the opposition of attitudes, viewpoints, and sexes." (Neely 214) One of the critical factors in the relationship between the sexes lies in the distinct separatio...   [tags: GCSE English Literature Coursework]
:: 6 Works Cited
2077 words
(5.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Gender Roles and Racism in Othello - ... These quick conclusions added to the overall tone of stereotyping, which in turn strengthened the racist strains in the play. “The relationship between Iago and Emilia is a great example of power in gender roles. Iago, the masculine being in the relationship had the power to describe, define and ultimately destroy Emilia; the feminine persona. The behavior of the women towards the men in Othello exemplifies stereotype that women should be subservient to men. Emilia, hardened to cynicism about male - female relationships by years of marriage, has the view that women are 'food' for men who are 'all stomachs' and 'belch' women when full (3.4.98)....   [tags: Shakespeare, sociological analysis]
:: 8 Works Cited
1542 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Gender Roles and Racism in Othello Essay - Gender roles and racism play a big part in Shakespeare’s Othello. “Othello is unique among Shakespeare's great tragedies. Unlike Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, which are set against a backdrop of affairs of state and reverberate with suggestions of universal human concerns, Othello is set in a private world and focuses on the passions and personal lives of its major figures. Indeed, it has often been described as a "tragedy of character" (Locklear). Adding well-developed female characters to the play Othello creates a dimension of gender conflict and feminist views....   [tags: Othello Essays]
:: 8 Works Cited
1505 words
(4.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Women in Othello: Gender Roles in Elizabethan England Essay - In modern society women have equal respect from men. Women do not need to be compliant to men and are free to express themselves. Although some pockets of discrimination exist in present-day society, it was not the same in Elizabethan England The disrespect that women received was unparalleled. Different levels of society bolstered this dramatic inequality of people, especially women to new heights. William Shakespeare writes influential books on the life of people living in Europe in the Elizabethan time period....   [tags: history, literature, Shakespeare]
:: 1 Works Cited
1172 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Negative Impact of Gender Roles in Othello Essay - While there have been a great number of changes in the world since Shakespeare wrote Othello, there are a few truths about humanity and society that remain true. Othello is notorious for it’s examination of race, but is not given enough credit for its observations of gender. Iago embodies masculine gender roles in a severe and exaggerated way, allowing his desire for proving his masculinity to corrupt him morally. Iago then turns and uses his own fears of inadequacy against Othello as the root of his revenge and to improve his own self-image....   [tags: Othello Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
1061 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Gender Stereotypes in Othello Essay - Stereotypes are commonly held generalized beliefs that most or all individuals sharing a given trait also should or do share other attributes assumed to be associated with aspects such as race, religion, and physical attribute. While stereotypes can erroneously shape people’s views of others, they can also influence the stereotyped individuals’ behavior as people often attempt to conform to these flawed images, especially in regards to gender stereotypes. Shakespeare’s great play Othello uses its main characters to embody the characteristics of the stereotypical females and males according to society’s liking....   [tags: Shakespeare]
:: 4 Works Cited
2031 words
(5.8 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Free College Essays - Roles of Cassio, Roderigo, and Brabantio in Shakespeare's Othello - Roles of Cassio, Roderigo, and Brabantio in Othello    From Shakespeare's play Othello, this paper will be discussing the roles    of Cassio, Roderigo and Brabantio, and their functions.    First, Cassio. Cassio is an honourable lieutenant and a soldier, who is    very loyal and caring towards his commanding officer, Othello, as shown    in one of many places, act two scene one line 45-48 when he is concerned    about Othello's well being because he has been lost at sea and says: Thanks, you the valiant of this warlike isle, That so approve the Moor....   [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Othello] 888 words
(2.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Impact of Gender on Shakespeare's Othello Essay - The Impact of Gender on Shakespeare’s Othello In the book “Gender Trouble” (1990), feminist theorist Judith Butler explains “gender is not only a social construct, but also a kind of performance such as a show we put on, a costume or disguise we wear” (Butler). In other words, gender is a performance, an act, and costumes, not the main aspect of essential identity. By understanding this theory of gender as an act, performance, we can see how gender has greatly impacted the outcome of the play in William Shakespeare’s Othello....   [tags: Literary Analysis, Judith Butler] 1373 words
(3.9 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Gender Normalities Theory in The Book of the City of Ladies as Applied in Shakespeare's Othello - Emilia in Othello confronts gender roles when she exploits the method introduced by Christine de Pizan in The Book of the City of Ladies. Christine’s realization of women’s oppression in her journey with the Ladies allows her to view life with a new perspective. Likewise, Emilia demonstrates the same ideals from The Book of the City of Ladies with her opinionated mindset and deviation from the women’s social norms of the time. Furthermore, Emilia develops in a similar progression as Christine, especially in the deconstruction of the men’s manipulation....   [tags: Women's Oppresion, Protofeminist]
:: 3 Works Cited
1407 words
(4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Othelo Essay - The portrayal of gender roles in William Shakespeare’s play Othello, demonstrates the inferior treatment of women and the certain stereotypes of men placed on them by society. Both the male and female characters in the play have these certain gender expectations placed on them. In a society dominated by men, it is understood that the women are to be seen rather than heard. The women are referred to and treated much like property. If indeed they do speak up, they are quickly silenced. One woman’s attempt to be the perfect wife is what ultimately led to her demise....   [tags: Character Analysis, Gender Roles] 1409 words
(4 pages)
Better Essays [preview]