Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Othello

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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 separation between them in the play. Rarely do men and women interact intimately or in person on their own behalf; "Roderigo never courts Desdemona directly, Iago never confronts Emilia about his suspicions of an affair between herself and the Moor, and Othello refuses to confront Desdemona concerning Iago's allegations and his suspicions." (Neely 217) Indeed, Othello and Desdemona are rarely seen together on stage alone. Much of the intimacy between the Moor and his wife tends to be alluded to, rather than enacted out-right: after answering the Venetian senators, he tells Desdemona he has little time to spend in love with her before he must leave to battle; after dismissing Cassio, he again sends Desdemona offstage to the bed; and the many names employed by Othello for his wife--"chuck," "honey," "sweeting"-- are never clearly explained to the audience. It is not until her death scene that Desdemona and Othello spend a lengthy amount of stage time together alone.

Due to this alienation between Othello and Desdemona, as well as the other male ...

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...cate creates in them the seed of tragedy.

Works Cited

"Cuckoldry." The Norton Shakespeare Workshop. Mark Rose, ed. CD-ROM. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Greene, Gayle. "‘This That You Call Love': Sexual and Social Tragedy in Othello." in Shakespeare and Gender: A History. Deborah E. Baker and Ivo Kamps. New York: Verso, 1995. 47-62.

Mason, H.A. Shakespeare's Tragedies of Love. New York: Barnes and Noble. 1970.

Neely, Carol Thomas. "Women and Men in Othello: "What should such a fool/Do with so good a woman?" In Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays. Carol Thomas Neely. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

"Othello's Occupation." The Norton Shakespeare Workshop. Mark Rose, ed. CD-ROM. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Shakespeare, William. "Othello". The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997. 2100-2172.
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