Othello: the Feminine Perspective

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Othello, Shakespeare’s tragic drama, has much to say about women and the attitudes of social groups and individuals towards them. Let’s examine, from the top down, from the general to the lower ranks, these outlooks on women and other feminine considerations. Kenneth Muir, in the Introduction to William Shakespeare: Othello, explains the Moor’s blind ignorance of his won wife: Iago begins his temptation on the following morning, and he is able to exploit Othello’s comparative ignorance of his wife. This ignorance is only partly due to the fact that they have had no opportunity of living together. It is due to a number of other factors. Othello comes of royal birth but he has won for himself a place of distinction in the service of the Venetian state by his military prowess. He confesses the one-sidedness of his experience (I.3.86-7): little of this great world can I speak More than pertains to feats of broil and battle. . . . (32) The violence against women in this drama is unpalatable for much of the audience. A.C. Bradley, in his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, describes the violence against the heroine as a “sin against the canons of art”: To some readers, again, parts of Othello appear shocking or even horrible. They think – if I may formulate their objection – that in these parts Shakespeare has sinned against the canons of art, by representing on the stage a violence or brutality the effect of which is unnecessarily painful and rather sensational than tragic. The passages which thus give offence are probably those already referred to – that where Othello strikes Desdemona (IV.i.251), that where he affects to treat her as an inmate of a house of ill-fame (IV.i... ... middle of paper ... ...ies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Literature. N. p.: Random House, 1986. Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955. Heilman, Robert B. “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello.” Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. Rev. Ed. Rpt. from The Sewanee Review, LXIV, 1 (Winter 1956), 1-4, 8-10; and Arizona Quarterly (Spring 1956), pp.5-16. Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
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