The Strength of Women in Shakespeare's Othello

The Strength of Women in Shakespeare's Othello

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The Strength of Women in Shakespeare's Othello
In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice, there are several strong, predominate female characters. Emilia, Desdemona, and Bianca have to defend themselves from the vicious men in the play. However, despite being victimized by the domineering men, their individual strengths set them apart from their abusers.
Emilia is a realistic woman. She does not always do what is right, but does things to make life easier for herself. When Emilia steals Desdemona’s handkerchief she says,
“To kiss and talk to. I’ll have the work ta’en out
And give’t Iago. What he will do with it
Heaven knows, not I;
I nothing but to please his.” (III.3.297-299)

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Iago always wanted Emilia to steal the handkerchief from Desdemona, but Emilia did not have the heart to do it. However, she finally gives in and when the opportunity for her to pick the fallen handkerchief off of the ground arises, she takes it. Emilia loves Iago desperately and she is a good, loyal wife. She believes that if she pleases her husband, he will love her more. However, he just uses her. Emilia would even sleep with another man for the entire world so she could give it to her husband. She says, “Marry, I would not do such a thing for a joint ring, nor for measures of lawn, nor for gowns, petticoats, nor caps, nor any petty exhibition; but, for all the whole world – ’Ud’s pity! who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture purgatory for’t” (IV.3.72-77). Emilia says how she would only commit adultery if she were given the world so Iago could rule it, not small little present.Yet, while she is trying to please her husband, she is also trying to please her mistress, Desdemona. Emilia is juggling these two characters but cannot always please both.
Throughout the play, the word ‘jealousy’ is used and Emilia has experience with jealousy. She says:
But jealous souls will not be answered so;
They are not ever jealous for the cause,
But jealous for they’re jealous. It is a monster
Begot upon itself, born on itself. (III.4.158-161)
Emilia learned of jealousy from Iago and when she makes the little speech about jealousy to Desdemona, she sounds like Iago. She derives some of the power in her words from the exact same things he has said to her. She talks about how jealousy is a monster and how it is almost impossible to get rid of. Emilia says that jealousy just keeps on building on itself and everything that is said contributes to its build up. She sums it up in saying that jealousy comes from an unnatural birth, which is a recurring theme throughout the book.
By the end of the play, Emilia has evolved into a different person. She discovers that Iago has caused the break down of Desdemona’s and Othello’s marriage along with the death of Desdemona. As a result of this, she is no longer afraid of standing up to her husband, and she does what is right; she explodes into a rage of truth, screaming everything that has been hidden. She yells:
O thou dull Moor, that handkerchief thou speak’st of
I found by fortune, and did give my husband;
For often with a solemn earnestness –
More than indeed belonged to such a trifle–
He begged of me to steal’t. (V.2.226-230)
Even after Iago threatened her with death, Emilia could not restrain herself from telling the truth. Iago finally managed to keep her quite by stabbing her in the back and forcing her to leave this world.
Desdemona is a young woman who has just been married. She does not have the experience that Emilia has in dealing with marital problems and worldly matters because of her young age. Unlike Emilia, Desdemona is not out to make life easier for herself, but she aims to simplify the lives of all the people around her. When Othello fires Cassio, she tells him:
My lord shall never rest;
I’ll watch him tame and talk him out of patience;
His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift;
I’ll intermingle everything he does
With Cassio’s suit. Therefore be marry, Cassio,
For thy solicitor shall rather die
Than give thy cause away. (III.3.22-28)
She tells him that everything Othello does, she will in some way, shape, or form, intermingle Cassio’s name into it. Desdemona tells Cassio that she will bother Othello until he goes crazy and is forced to forgive Cassio. She also says she would rather die than give up Cassio’s suit. In a way, her kindness leads to her death. Her extreme passion in helping Cassio causes her to annoy Othello by asking him to talk with Cassio. She says,
DESDEMONA. When shall he come?
Tell me, Othello. I wonder in my soul
What you would ask that I should deny
Or stand so mamm’ring on. What? Michael Cassio,
That came a-wooing with you, and so many a time,
When I have spoke of you dispraisingly,
Hath ta’en your part – to have so much to do
To bring him in? By’r Lady, I could do much –
OTHELLO. Prithee no more. Let him come when he will!
I will deny thee nothing. (CITATION NEEDED) (III.3.68-76)
This upsets Othello because he has just married Desdemona. She should be talking about him, but she is talking about Cassio. Desdemona taking Cassio’s defense only makes her look guilty to Othello and also adds to Othello’s growing instability and paranoia that leads him to his breaking point. Also, Iago takes Desdemona’s kindness and corrupts it. He gets Othello to think that Desdemona is cheating with Cassio. This causes Othello to go mad and to kill the person he loves most in all the world, his innocent wife, Desdemona.
Bianca is a courtesan. She is a woman that Cassio goes to and spends his free time with while in Cyprus. No one considers her a person because of her profession, which was looked down upon by many in the upper classes.
IAGO. Now, if this suit lay in Bianca’s power,
How quickly should you speed!
CASSIO. Alas, poor caitiff! (IV.1.107-108)
Bianca loves Cassio. Iago even says, “I never knew a woman love man so” (IV.1.110). However, Cassio does not love her and does not consider her as someone that is eligible to be married to. When Iago asks Cassio if he will marry her, Cassio says, “I marry? What, a customer? Prithee bear some charity to my wit; do not think it unwholesome. Ha, ha, ha!” (IV.1.118-121). Cassio cannot even stand the idea of marrying Bianca. Every time he hears her name, he cannot resist from laughing and making a joke on her expense.
Iago also manages to use Bianca in his evil scheme. He gets Cassio to talk about Bianca while Othello is hiding. Since Othello cannot hear everything, he mistakenly thinks Cassio is talking about Desdemona.
IAGO. I never knew a woman love man so.
CASSIO. Alas, poor rogue! I think , i’ faith, she loves me.
OTHELLO. Now he denies it faintly, and laughs it out. (IV.1.110-112)
This only contributes to Othello’s jealousy, which is exactly what Iago wants. Through Othello’s jealousy, Iago is able to bring everyone around him down.
It takes a strong woman to be able to stand up to men who are always putting them down.
All three of these women, Emilia, Desdemona, and Bianca, managed to stand up to their abusers. (Need more in conclusion, at least 3 or 4 more sentences)
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