Women In Othello: Gender Roles In Elizabethan England

1469 words - 6 pages

In modern society women have equal respect from men. Women do not need to be compliant to men and are free to express themselves. Although some pockets of discrimination exist in present-day society, it was not the same in Elizabethan England The disrespect that women received was unparalleled. Different levels of society bolstered this dramatic inequality of people, especially women to new heights. William Shakespeare writes influential books on the life of people living in Europe in the Elizabethan time period. William Shakespeare's Othello shows the identity of women to portray the injustice of unequal status of women expecting them to be blindly obedient to men.
The identity of women ...view middle of the document...

Burglary is present in Othello and is looked upon as a huge problem. This action of stealing a piece of cloth goes against the moral and spiritual laws of society and thus further degrade women. However, not all women are the same. The occupation of women can play a crucial role in their identity. Bianca, who is a prostitute earns her livelihood by "selling her desires" which she "buys herself bread and clothes." (IV.i.94-95) The actions that she is presented with even by a lady is unfortunate. Even Emilia who has a higher status in class than Bianca insults her. Bianca kindly disregards the comment and adds that she has a "life as honest as [Emilia]."(V.i.122-123) Women need to survive in Othello as men do. It is difficult as a single woman to find an appropriate job in a male oriented society; however, everyone needs to survive come what may, even though it may lead to the degradation of her image and identity. The identity of a woman unconsciously leads to her injustice in society.
The injustice of unequal status towards women develop their low status in society. Men have very little respect to their counterparts. Emilia who opens her mind to the idea that it is the fault of men for the downfall of women does not demonstrate any actions against it. Emilia reasons from her mind:

"But I do think it is their husband's faults
If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties
And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
Or else break out in peevish jealousies
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,…"(IV.iii.84-88)
The husband in the relationship is the destiny of the woman. If the husband loses the money earned or throws restraints, it is the woman who feels it the most. The lives of women are seldom respected with dignity and most of the time disrespected. Men have important duties to obey. Their incompetence can lower their status and even more greatly extinguish the status of woman. The women are already in a very susceptible situation which can destabilize and lower their status further. The women have no say in decisions and cannot fight back since it can result in damaging consequences. Even though very few women even have thoughts about going against men, most value men. The women in Othello are manipulated to believe men are gods; however, Desdemona concisely says "[women] must think men are not gods."(III.iv.142) This point highlights the respect that women have to men. Desdemona found the dark side of men and how they treat her. This removes all justice for women. As women feel it is important to be with a man, they give up everything to them. If society portrays men as gods, it can only mean that women are the worshipers. However, in present day society, men and woman are considered equal and no gender is lowered or raised in their identity and righteousness. Furthermore, men try to silence their wives if any issues arise. When Emilia tells Othello that her husband orchestrated the plot, Iago raised his "sword upon a...

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