Gender Bias in Othello

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Gender Bias in Othello Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello is an unfortunate example of gender bias, of sexism which takes advantage of women. The three women characters in the drama are all, in their own ways, victims of men’s skewed attitudes regarding women. Let us delve into this topic in this essay. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine comment in the Introduction to Shakespeare: Othello that sexism is a big factor in the play: At this point in our civilization the play’s fascination and its horror may be greater than ever before because we have been made so very sensitive to the issues of race, class, and gender that are woven into the texture of Othello. [. . .] The issue of gender is especially noticeable in the final scenes of the play – with the attacks on Bianca, Emilia, and Desdemona – which are vivid reminders of how terrible the power traditionally exerted by men over women can be. (xiii-xiv) In the opening scene, while Iago is expressing his hatred for the general Othello for his having chosen Michael Cassio for the lieutenancy, he contrives a plan to partially avenge himself (“I follow him to serve my turn upon him”), with Roderigo’s assistance, by alerting Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, to the fact of his daughter’s elopement with Othello: “Call up her father, / Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight [. . .].” Implied in this move is the fact of a father’s assumed control over the daughter’s choice of a marriage partner. Brabantio’s admonition to Roderigo implicitly expresses the same message: The worser welcome: I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors: In honest plainness thou hast heard me say My daughter is not for th... ... middle of paper ... ...on: Twayne Publishers, 1985. Mack, Maynard. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, ed. Introduction. Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Washington Square Press, 1993. Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos. Wayne, Valerie. “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello.” The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ed Valerie Wayne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
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