Stereotypes in Othello

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An interesting fact about Williams Shakespeare's plays is when they were performed they were only performed by men. That is why he only used female characters when he absolutely had to. The female characters he chose to incorporate into his works were chosen for specific reasons. While reading Othello it was very clear that the point he was trying to make had to do with women's stereotypes of the time of the playwright. This particular play was written during the shakespearean era. During this era women were seen as inferior to me. Due to this inferiority typically their husbands had complete control over them leading the women to become very submissive. Men believed that the only significance of a women was that they could clean, cook and bear children. Women unfortunately just accepted these degrading stereotypes.

In Othello there are three women who were been given different positions in society. There's Desdemona who is part of the high class society, Emilia who is part of the middle class society, and lastly there is Bianca who is part of the lower class society. It was important to Shakespeare to have a women from each class to show even though they are part of different classes they are still all treated similarly.

While all three of the women named are significant to the story the least significant would have to be Bianca. Bianca is Michael Cassio's mistress and she is basically only used for sex throughout the play. Michael Cassio has very little respect for Bianca this is obvious due to him referring to her as a strumpet. We also see that he has little respect for her and that she has little respect for herself when Bianca says,  but that you do not love me, I pray you, bring me on the way a little,  and say if I shall see you soon at night (4.1.607) The significance of this quote is that it shows that the only time she planned on seeing Michael Cassio was at night, and she hoped that he would still come even if he didn't love her. The stereotype that Bianca is given is a prostitute. The reason for her having a less significant effect is that she is not married to Michael Cassio, unlike Desdemona and Emilia who are married and remain loyal to their husbands not just to the person who is only using them to have sex with.

Desdemona and Emilia are the two most important female figures in this play. Desdemona is the wife of Othello and Emilia is the wife if Iago. These two women are given the obligation of respecting their husbands and always remaining loyal to them no matter the circumstance. Desdemona and Emilia have the same amount of significance even though they are very different characters. Desdemona is described to us as a very beautiful, youthful white women who has fallen in love with a very powerful darker colored man. When she married him we see the first example of her remaining loyal to him over anyone, because he father does not approve of this marriage yet she still chooses her new husband over him. As a reader we can tell that on the inside Desdemona is someone who is very strong, but she doesn't get to show this side of her as much as she would like to. In her marriage with Othello she seems to always be the one who is being understanding, and just trying to keep the peace. 

Even though throughout the play we see her struggle to try and prove her loyalty to her husband no matter what she does or says. Othello believes that Desdemona is having an affair. This rumor about her is not true, and she even tells Emilia that she could never cheat on Othello she says that she doesn't understand how any women could do that to their husband. The stereotype that Desdemona is given is that all women are innocent, and loyal to their husbands no matter what the cost is. Unfortunately the cost for Desdemona was her life because even right down to her last minutes she remained loyal to her husband. When he first enters the room she tries telling him that it is not true, and also when he suffocates her she comes back for a few more lines while Emilia where she tells her that she commited suicide and that it was all her fault. Her exact lines where Nobody, I myself         (5.2.629). Emilia after this becomes very angry with Iago because she figures out that this whole thing was his fault.

Emilia has a very similar role to Desdemona that she plays. She has to be submissive to her husband Iago, but he is not her only obligation. Emilia also has the obligation to answer to Othello as well. Throughout the whole play her stereotype is that of a good wife, she is the good obeying wife meaning anything that she knows she has to keep to herself.  Emilia find out what Iago's plan was but she had no other choice but to go on with her everyday life, the thought of questioning him could never happen because she knows what the consequences would be. Another stereotype that I would say Emilia is given is that she is motherly in the since that she is the person everyone seems to go to when they have a problem. Also we see that she is concerned about Desdemona's feelings when she finds her handkerchiefs, and Iago forces her to give it to him so her can finish his plans about making Othello believe that she is having an affair with Cassio. Emilia as no other choice but to give it to him because he is her husband, and he said that he wanted it.

Another difference between her and Desdemona is at the end of the story Shakespeare makes an interesting decision to actually have Emilia break the boundaries of her given stereotype. Emilia is angry with Iago when she finds out from Othello that he was the one who was telling Othello that Desdemona was cheating on him. Emilia confronts him of his lying which lead to Desdemona's murder. When Emilia confronts him this angers Iago, and leads to him murdering her at the first chance that he got. I think that it is important that Shakespeare has them both die due to them breaking there stereotypes whether they actually did or that they were thought to have. He is showing just how serious these women's roles were during this time, and he is also showing that the men at this time did not want women to have any power and the second that they tried to it lead to them being murdered. I also think that it is important the way that he has desdemona killed by Othello. He didn't just have him stab her quickly, he had him suffocate her which was a way of showing his strength and power, and showing her weakness due to Desdemona not being able to defend herself or get Othello off of her.

An interesting article that was recently published in The Denver Post, was written about how we have modern day scenarios like the ones in Othello. John Moore wrote in his article We are all Othello, that all of us have a little bit of Othello in us. He wrote that Singer Kurt Cobain, the pop legend now reads, followed a siren into the drug culture and eventually paid for it with his life. (Moore, We are all Othello) This quote relates to what is being discussed in the essay, because Emilia and Desdemona followed there husbands in their life instead of living there own which eventually lead to there death. Moore also writes in his article, On the reality TV series The Hills, for example, fans see Spencer Pratt as an Iago figure for turning his wife, Heidi Montag, against all her friends. (More, We are all Othello) This quote is significant, because he is finding a similarity in a modern day tv show character to Iago from Shakespeare's play, and it makes since. Iago turns Emilia against her friend Desdemona when he orders her to give him the Handkerchief. In conclusion we as women are still faced with these stereotypes everyday, from the shakespearean era to modern day it has not really changed all that much, all we can do is choose to either fall victim to it or we can choose to be like Emilia and break those boundaries no matter what the outcome might be.

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Stereotypes in Othello. (2020, Jun 17). Retrieved June 22, 2024 , from

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