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Feminine Perspective within Othello

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Feminine Perspective within Othello

In William Shakespeare’s tragic drama Othello, the male characters far outnumber the female ones. This may tend to cause the feminine viewpoint to be shortchanged. Let’s not let that happen – by consideration of same in this essay.

In the essay “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello” Robert B. Heilman discusses

involvement in the play by Emilia, the wife of Iago:

Emilia’s picking up the handkerchief helps advance the action by contributing to Iago’s deception of Othello, but it is also relevant to her character and to Shakespeare’s conception of the modes of wifely devotion and marital relationship (not to mention its relations by contrast with actions of Desdemona and Bianca and of Emilia herself later). (330)

It was Emilia’s gift of the decorated kerchief to her husband that set up Desdemona for murder. Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” talks of Emilia’s outlook on things:

Emilia’s silence while her mistress lived is fully explicable in terms of her character. She shares with her husband the generalizing trick and is well used to domestic scenes. The jealous, she knows,

are not ever jealous for the cause

But jealous for they are jealous.

If it was not the handkerchief it would be something else. Why disobey her husband and risk his fury? It would not do any good. This is what men are like. But Desdemona dead sweeps away all such generalities and all caution. At this sight, Emilia though ‘the world is a huge thing’ finds that there is a thing she will not do for it. By her heroic disregard for death she gives the only ‘proof’ there can be of Desdemona’s innocence: the testimony of faith. For falseness can be proved, innocence can only be believed. Faith, not evidence, begets faith. (145)

At the outset of the play only the male perspective is given: Iago persuades the rejected suitor of Desdemona, Roderigo, to accompany him to the home of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, in the middle of the night. Once there the two awaken the senator with loud shouts about his daughter’s elopement with Othello. In response to the noise and Iago’s vulgar descriptions of Desdemona’s involvement with the general, Brabantio arises from bed. With Roderigo’s help, he gathers a search party to go and find Desdemona and bring her home.
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