Summary: the Role of Women in Othello Play

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Women role in Othello is not very significant, and it portrays the status of women in Elizabethan era. In Elizabethan society, women were raised to believe that they were inferior to men. We observe the similar attitudes towards women in Othello. Women considered property and possessions of their fathers and husbands. After marriage they were expected to be obedient to their husbands and remain loyal and show chastity. The three women in the play are presented according to this expectation. Women in Othello were not taken seriously and were believed to be sex objects and were thought to be good for only three things: wives, nuns or wives.

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All through the play women are considered property and possessions of men. Before their marriage they are the property of their fathers and this possession is transferred to their husbands after marriage. Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio, eloped from the house. Iago goes up to Brabantio house to inform him about his daughter. The words used by Iago shows as if Desdemona was a property of her father. Lago shouting “Thieves! Thieves!” shows how he considered Desdemona as property of her father and it was taken away from his possession. He tells Brabantio that he has been “robbed” and refers to his daughter as his “white Lamb”. These words very clearly show Desdemona was considered a property of her father. The women in the play also accepted this fact that male guardian owned them and they had to be obedient. When Desdemona was asked to whom she should be obedient, her reply showed acceptance of the fact that she was a property of her father and had to be obedient to him, but now she is married, and her obedience is towards her husband. She said as my mother showed duty to you, I also must show duty to my husband, the moor.

Treatment of Bianca in the play showed that women were not taken seriously in the play. Bianca is a prostitute in the play and is madly in love with Cassio. In private Cassio admitted that is loves her but is not willing to admit in public. When Bianca came to see him at his house, he asks her to leave.From his statement it is clear that he doesn’t want to be seen with a prostitute, but at the same time he lies to her that he loves her just for sexual satisfaction. The conversation between Othello and Iago shows what they think of women. They were to confront Cassion about whether he loves Bianca or not. The words they used for Bianca showed the misogyny in the play. They called her “loose girl” and a “whore”. They also made fun of the rumor that Cassio loves her and wants to marry her, because how would want to love a “loose girl” and a “whore”?

He calls her a prostitute and scolds her for following him around in front company. This shows kind of respect women had in this play. They were not taken seriously at all. Othello treated his wife with similar disrespect and called her a whore.

In Elizabethan era, women were expected to be obedient to their fathers and husbands. We observe the same expectations from all the women in the play. Desdemona was expected to be obedient to her father. When she goes against him and marries a Moor, her father can not believe it and thinks that Othello must have tricked her as she not able to make these types of decisions on her own. 

In Othello, women are portrayed in empowered roles. From a prostitute to the wife of general, the women had to show complete obedience and loyalty to the male characters in the show. The play very clearly showed the secondary status given to women in the Elizabethan era. They are considered the property of their fathers and after marriage, property of their husbands. Desdemona’s submission to Othello is seen throughout the play. She wouldn’t speak a word against her husband even though he has ill-treated her all through the play. Her unquestionable submission to her husband led to her death by her husband at the end of the play. Othello also portrayed that how women were not considered at the same status as men and mistreated, called names all through the play.



Work cited

  1. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Othello : 1622. Oxford :Clarendon Press, 1975. Print.

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