Language Is, arguably, the primary defining feature that separates humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. It has allowed the classification of our known universe. And the subsequent formation of an abstract body of collective intelligence. Language also has the power to persuade and seduce, which has resulted in a dynamic understanding of our feeling and emotions. Due to the fundamental function of language to Interpret and understand the complexities of our own social system, it follows that ways of speaking about specific ideas and beliefs are instrumental in the formation and manipulation of ideologies in such a system.
In the context of Othello, Moor of Venice, discourse around gender works to both reinforce and challenge the dominant assumptions of patriarchal society through the normalization and empowerment of primary female characters. The Elizabethan era marked an interesting period in the history of gender dynamics. Although the role of women In society was still very limited, the highly Intelligent Queen Elizabeth Inspired a spike In women’s education. Gender expectations were precise: men were the breadwinners and women raised the children and maintained the household.
However, the era did witness the emergence of female artists; for example, female writers were often contracted to transcribe religious works, and a painter by the name of Leviathan Terrible was even contracted by Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth. The intellectually liberal Renaissance movement gained momentum during this time, and as the empire’s female figurehead became ever more revered, the affluent members of society hired private tutors to provide education for their wives and daughters as It was still unacceptable for women to attend school or university.
Thesis Statement Talking Gender Roles In Othello
Women rarely had the money to fund their own education, with the exception of lethal heiresses and the monarchy, as they were unable to enter respected professions or inherit land titles. Due to an overarching belief that women were the weaker sex, It was considered Important for them to by ‘looked after’ by a man; which resulted in marriage being the unquestioned goal of all girls.
Despite many depictions of abusive marriages at the time, it was expected that while the man was the head of the relationship, his role was to care for the woman. Should she need ‘chastising’, he was never to be cruel or harm her; and abuse resulted In prosecution. It’s important to understand these social conditions when analyzing the position of women in Othello, as the dynamics of gender inequality are a direct result of the context in which they exist.
As a result of misogynistic discourse In the play, the female characters are marginal’s; portrayed as uncontrollable, deceiving, dishonest, and unfaithful. The censorship of female action by men who ‘own them’ is made clear by the questioning of female virtue and honesty; “fathers, from hence trust not your daughters’ mulled By what you see them act”. Othello claims that the “curse of marriage” Is “that [men] an call these delicate creatures [theirs], and not their appetites! This language clearly positions women as innately promiscuous objects to be owned, in this case by I OFF were comparable too dogs in regards to their lack of control, however the pairing with “delicate” implies some form of desirability. Such language constructs women as pretty, fickle beings, which continues to reinforce their inferior position as slaves to their man’s impulses. Emilie initially supports this assumption by enabling Lagos fantasies’ by stealing Adhesion’s handkerchief, claiming that that “My wayward Cubans hath a hundred times wooed me to steal it… ND I nothing, but to please his fantasy. ” The roots of such assumptions find themselves firmly planted in The Bible, where the beautiful Eve was not only created at the whim of Adam, but her inability to resist temptation was to blame for his subsequent suffering. These misogynistic themes are echoed in Adhesion’s self-proclaimed “divided duty’ to “noble father” and “noble Moor”, as well in the suggestion that Othello fall from grace’ is all because of Adhesion’s suggested inability to resist Cassia’s seduction. Gags intentioned accusation of her as “the cunning where of Venice” unjustly vilifies her, and ultimately results Othello deciding that she “must die, else she’ll betray more men”. This is supported by Dampen Callaghan writing in Women and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy that makes the point that “misogynistic discourse leads, directly or indirectly, to the death of the female”. The kind of language she is referring to is no more evident that in the moments preceding Adhesion’s death, when Othello refers to her as “perjured woman,” “strumpet,” “where,” “false,” “a liar,” and “foul”.
The play questions the sexual morality of women right from the beginning, and the plot is centric to the assumption that one can easily be “framed to make women false”; which is reinforced by by Lagos accusation that women are “players in your housewifely, and housewives in your beds”, meaning that they are more dedicated to sexual pursuit than to the duties of the marital house. These beliefs, although shocking to modern audiences, were accepted without question at the time of production because Elizabethan ideology was saturated with patriarchal and misogynistic assumptions.
It seems illogical that the women in Othello, who express themselves as virtuous, independent, and articulate despite their normalization, would put up with such extreme treatment without some sort of objection. Shakespearian works are renowned for the avocation of movements that were controversial at the time; and although Othello provides copious examples of women’s submission to the dominance of patriarchal views, the female characters do express their desire for gender equality.
In such times, the tone of their dialogue changes from submissive to empowered, which Just shows how remarkable the power of language is in repeating ideas and beliefs. For example, Desman demands to accompany Othello to the battleground of Cypress, claiming that it’s her ‘rite of love’, not duty, as a wife to accompany her husband to war. Her decisive language represents the independent personalities of the female minority at the time that objected to blatant objectification and suppression by the patriarchy.
At one of the most shocking moments of the play, when Othello strikes his wife, she does not revert to self-blame as in the majority of the play, and instead defends her virtue by decisively stating, “I eve not deserved this”. However it is Emilie who serves as the best example of a when complaining to Ago that Othello has “borrowed” Desman, saying that “A beggar in his drink could not have laid such terms upon his called” and condemning the “cogging, cozening slave” who she blames for having “devised this slander”.
This example of strong, empowered language is the first indication that she doesn’t conform to the ‘subservient woman’ expectation, and she continues to defend Adhesion’s virtue to her dying breaths; saying that “she was chaste”. Towards the inclusion of the play, she goes farther than any other character to subvert the dominant misogynistic discourse, and advocates for the consideration of gender equality. L do think it is their husband’s faults if wives do fall” she says, “Let husbands know their wives have sense like them”. This is the only time in the play where female characters dominate the stage for a significant about of time, free to speak without the constraints of patriarchal expectation. They challenge the cultural stereotype of women as graceful and devoid of the typically masculine traits; saying, why we have galls; and though we have some grace, yet we have some revenge”.
Although being vulnerable to violent temptations may not necessarily be desirable, to strip a gender of an entire human experience is degrading, and would have seriously contributed to the distorted power distribution that resulted in the unequal treatment of women in Elizabethan society. The discourse around gender in Othello, Moor of Venice works to both marginal’s and empower the primary female characters; which in turn presents conflicting presentations of Elizabethan society in terms of patriarchal dominance.
For the majority of the play, the women of the text are excluded from the use powerful discourse, and hence are constructed as mindless conformations to the archetype of the victimizes Elizabethan woman. They are treated like objects to be owned by the dominant male characters, and are vilified as a result of unfounded, misogynistic slander. Additionally, the apparently unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of female sexuality is seen to undermine male authority, eliciting further discrimination.
Although attempts are made by women to assert their rights as equals through the adoption of a more powerful discourse, it is either ignored, or only done in an exclusively female environment; which does nothing to challenge either their normalization or the assumptions of patriarchal dominance. As a modern audience, we can appreciate this injustice; however such a suggestion was ground breaking in Shakespearean time. As such, it is evident that the treatment of gender bias in Othello establishes the play as typical the Elizabethan era, but also revolutionary in its suggestion that society should function in any other way.