Tragic Role Of Women In Othello

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Sofia Kourous Dr. Stella English 2 (B) 01/04/14 “If Wives Do Fall” Shakespeare’s Othello: society & the tragic role of Emilia The women in Othello are few. A grand total of three have lines, and only two are truly important characters. The females in the play, in accordance to Shakespeare’s time period’s own Elizabethan English ideologies and the gender norms of the society in which the play takes place, are put firmly ‘in their place’. They are meek, soft spoken, and submissive, treated like possessions by the dominating men and almost completely disregarded as individuals with their own thoughts and emotions. Bawdy jokes and cracks at women’s sexuality are rampant, and husbands get away with frequent misogynistic rants at their wives’ expense. The female character who plays the most dynamic role in Othello is Emilia. In the duration of the play, we observe her evolution from a simple handmaiden, to a loyal wife enduring her husband’s maltreat, to a complex woman of conflicted feelings and fluctuating emotions. In this way, Emilia disproves the total weakness of women in Othello, and rises as her own sort of minor tragic hero, a preliminary feminist champion. In order to analyse Shakespeare’s women, one must be aware of the female situation in both the playwright's own time period, and in the period in which his play was written. The ladies in Othello suggest that they have “internalised society's’ expectations of them, and apart from in moment of private conversation, behave as men expect, believing this to be ‘natural’” (. Emilia’s (and Desdemona’s) behaviour towards men for the most part of the play is an example of this behavior considered normal at the time. This conformity to social norms can be perceived as weaknes... ... middle of paper ... ...woman, and her views far ahead of her time. She delivers a realistic woman, one that is her own person, and who does not define herself in terms of the men in her life. “[Her] feminist perspective allows Desdemona’s character to be aware of the Madonna-whore dichotomy that she has firmly rooted herself within.” (Guffey 2005). Professor Guffey of Purdue University states that Emilia’s wisdom, experience, and years contrasts Desdemona’s young and naïve, black and white views of the world, specifically of gender dynamics. It is clear that Emilia knows her duties as a wife and what is expected of her, but she also recognizes the many male/female contradictions and double standards present in their society and is less than pleased with them. The extremity of Emilia’s feminist ideologies is debatable, though her position as a sceptic in the play is well-established.
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