Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Othello

By viewing the male characters within Othello, it is easy to declare that the tragedy shows how jealously is a man’s fatal flaw. Both Othello and Iago let the possibilities of their wives having affairs dictate their every move. Due to jealousy, Iago and Othello turn into violent beings, which ultimately leads to them becoming murderers Othello and Iago were once held with the highest regard, but now the “immortal part” of oneself would now be looked upon with disappointmentr (99) Othello and Iago will forever be remembered as the men who become “green—eyed monsterISJ,” turning them into unrecognizable people to those they loved.

(129) It is because men and their actions are at the forefront of Othello that female characters tend to fade into the background, In Othello, there are eight named men and three named women. The most obvious female character is Desdemona, who Othello loved up until Iago planted the seeds of infidelity.

Desdemona is described as being beautiful and as a “truly an obedient lady.

” (189) This shows how people in this era viewed Desdemona as being the epitome of a perfect wife simply because she obeys Othello’s orders. In fact, Desdemona often refers to Othello as “my lord.“ This displays how Desdemona positions Othello on a high pedestal. Desdemona does not equate herself as worthy of being on the same level as Othello, instead she is below him, his subordinate. Thus revealing how in Desdemona‘s eyes, her husband is God. This type of mindset is the biggest difference between Desdemona and other female characters.

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Although Emilia may be obedient, she does not view her husband, Iago, as being like a God Unlike Othello, Emilia’s husband does not know how to compliment herr Instead of Iago giving his wife praise, he often tries to undermine her by insulting her intelligence or her looks, (Iago disregards her questioning about the handkerchief and refers to Emilia as a wench)

This dynamic leads Emilia to compare men’s relationship women to that of food, “they eat us hungerly, and when they are full they belch us.” (159) This shows how Emilia views men in a more sinister way than Desdemona. As oppose to being gods, men are humans who dispose of women after their selfish desires have been fulfilled, However, following in the obedient role of the woman, Emilia does not let her opinions be known to Iago. Emilia discovers her voice when she learns that she aided lago plans of deceit, and it is when she refuses to be silent that she is killed. This works to reveal how women are punished when they decide not to conform and it is such punishment that pressures women to continue to obey their male counter parts. In Othello, if a woman cherishes as man as if he were God or if a woman holds a man in the same light as a woman, both types of women end up dead.

The only woman that is not murdered is Bianca, a prostitute. Due to Bianca’s profession, she is looked upon as what not to be as a woman. Since Bianca is considered an outcast she is saved from societal pressurer Even though she may face judgment, by being socially excluded she does not have to conform to the expectations of a “perfect“ woman. Bianca can be whoever she wants to be, for herself and not for a man, Being a prostitute is Bianca’s way of taking control of her body and doing whatever she pleases with it. Thus, on the surface it may seem that women characters in Othello are subservient to men. But Desdemona‘s realization that “Nay, we must think men are not gods,” indicates the start of women believing themselves to be equal to men.

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Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Othello. (2022, Oct 23). Retrieved from

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