Women's Role in Othello and Race: Subversion and Establishment

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 684 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 684|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Perception of Race in Othello
  3. Role of Women in Othello
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works Cited


The central themes explored in the tragedy Othello encompass gender and race, shedding light on Othello's evolving perceptions and revealing the constraints he faces. These themes extend to the other characters who often hold unrealistic ideals, resulting in relational challenges and decisions that culminate in tragic outcomes. This essay aims to delve into the significance and repercussions of gender and race during the Early Modern Period, with a particular focus on women's roles in Othello. Ultimately, the essay will determine whether the prevailing ideologies are undermined or reasserted within the narrative.

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Perception of Race in Othello

Othello´s perception of race in Early Modern times was gradually changing. Being born as a North-African moor, and not having experienced any racial inferiority makes it accurate for him to state, “My parts, my title and my perfect soul, / Shall manifest me rightly” (I.ii.31-32). However, due to Iago´s speculating mind games, Othello believes Desdemona´s capability of being unfaithful. Iago knows that men are more reliable than women and uses it as a weapon to achieve what he wants, which is revenge. Othello is influenced by Iago´s manipulative skills and soon announces, ¨And yet how nature, erring from itself¨ (III.iii.233). Desdemona´s father accuses Othello, ¨Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom, / Of such a thing as though-to fear, not to delight¨ (I.ii.73-74), meaning that others start to criticize his actions because of his racial difference. As a consequence, Othello starts to identify himself as someone who is a part of minority that is looked down to.

Role of Women in Othello

However, when we analyze effects of race, it often goes hand in hand with gender ideologies. It is evident that the majority of men characters consider women as naturally treacherous. Iago claims, ¨If she be fair and wise, faimess and wit, / The one´s for use, the other useth it¨ (II.i.135). In the tragedy, there are numerous discourses that display the men ownership of women. When her father find out about his daughter´s marriage, Brabantio accuses Othello for a theft, 'O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter¨ (I.ii.62).

Regards Ryan´s statement, it would make us agree that Desdemona desires to oppose the already established values and fights for the equality by being direct when she speaks her mind. Since she is genuine, she thinks of Othello as very attractive, manly and powerful, but also sees in him as someone who might be lacking love, which she desires to nourish him with. Nevertheless, Desdemona ignores societies norms and gets married in secret. In contrast, Othello desires loyalty and honesty, therefore he expects this quality to be met in others, as he announces, ¨certain men should be what they seem¨ (III.iii.134), it makes him believe Iago´s filthy lies and makes him disrespect his wife where he says to her, ¨Was this fair paper, this most goodly book, Made to write ‘whore upon’? (4.2. ll. 70-71). Othello, on the other hand, should look at events with a more critical point of view, since he lacks rational thinking when it is most needed.

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Finally, the main ideas and values of the tragedy are mainly subverted as Othello kills his wife and afterwards himself. Within their death, their ideas cannot be passed forward and couldn´t be re-established. Emilia is devastated and goes against Othello shouting, ¨And you the blacker devil!¨ (V.ii.145), which makes us acknowledge that characters are starting to judge him for his actions due to his racial difference. Othello tries to justify himself to Gratiano expecting an understanding from him, to which Gratiano responds, ¨All that is spoke is marred¨ (V.ii.374), showing a complete disinterest in doing that. As Jonathan Dollimore has written, ¨Dissidence may provoke brutal repression, and that shows not that it was all ruse of power to consolidate itself, but that ¨the challenge really was unsettling¨ (Sinfield 1992: 49).

Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015.
  2. Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Palgrave Macmillan, 1989.
  3. Sinfield, Alan. Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading. University of California Press, 1992.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Women’s Role in Othello and Race: Subversion and Establishment. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from
“Women’s Role in Othello and Race: Subversion and Establishment.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Women’s Role in Othello and Race: Subversion and Establishment. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2023].
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