What Are Some Examples Of Sexism In Othello?

Updated 30 September, 2023
In his play, Othello, William Shakespeare pays attention to the social expectations of women in Elizabethan society through the three women - Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca. The behavior of these women adhered to the sexist stereotypes of the time of Shakespeare and Elizabethan era.
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Shakespeare's sexism is often seen as a by-product of his time, rather than a positive force in his work. A good example is the Othello tragedy. The gender bias in Shakespeare's tragedy 'Othello' is an unfortunate example of gender bias, which is the use of female sexism. The three female characters in the play each have their own characteristics, and all are victims of male prejudice against women.
The women of Shakespeare's Othello are considered the property of men. In the first act of the play, Brabantio complains to the Duke of Venice and the Venetian State that Othello stole his daughter and 'drugged' his daughter. The Senate supports Othello's case, and the Duke authorizes Desdemona to accompany him to Cyprus for military operations. Othello talked to Iago and informed the duke that he would assign his wife to Iago to take care of him, and quoted a sentence: 'Your transportation, I will assign my wife”. The quote implies that Othello’s wife Desdemona is a kind of property, implying that it needs to be protected and transported. In Shakespeare's time, this was normal, because women were considered weaker sexes and needed protection. When Othello left, the first senator also said: 'Goodbye, Bravo Moore; goodbye! Desdemona is used well', which shows that in the drama, the word 'use' replaces the word 'care' word. This sentence can also define the Venetian's expectations of women, who bow to her husband and use them casually.
Furthermore, women in Shakespeare's Othello are depicted as sexual objects and passive individuals. For example, Iago in the play uses very sexist and offensive language because he considers women as sexual objects. After meeting with the Duke and planning a Senate meeting about the war to invade Turkey, Iago and Rodrigo took the stage alone. Rodrigo is listening to Iago's plan. Iago commented on their relationship and the love sickness that would control a man's appetite. He commented on his relationship with Emilia, called his wife a prostitute and then made more disparaging comments because he thinks she is not satisfied with him. Iago’s wife, Emilia, is portrayed as a passive person, only fulfilling Iago's wish to please him.
In Act 2, Iago spoke of revenge against Othello and plans to secure the downfall of Cassio. Iago described the caring nature of the Moor when talking to himself, and claimed that he loved Desdemona only for continued revenge. He said: 'Nothing can and will not satisfy my soul until I am equal to him, wife and wife.' Iago believed that if sleeping with Desdemona, he and Othello would be the same. The emotions of Emilia and Desdemona are automatically ignored, because Iago sees them as objects to promote his desires.
In Shakespeare's 'Othello', the sexism is explored in many ways. Through the eyes of Emilia and Desdemona, we can even truly cultivate the emotions of Desdemona, an elite female who has succumbed to social expectations. Through Emilia, we can see the imbalance in society and the treatment of women in Shakespeare’s time.

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