Essay on A Feminist Perspective of Othello

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A Feminist Perspective of Othello

Throughout the length of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello there is a steady undercurrent of sexism. It is originating from not one, but rather various male characters in the play, who manifest prejudicial, discriminatory attitudes toward women.

In the opening scene, while Iago is expressing his hatred for the general Othello for his having chosen Michael Cassio for the lieutenancy, he contrives a plan to partially avenge himself (“I follow him to serve my turn upon him”), with Roderigo’s assistance, by alerting Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, to the fact of his daughter’s elopement with Othello: “Call up her father, / Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight [. . .] .” Implied in
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How got she out? O treason of the blood!

Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds

By what you see them act. (1.1)

Othello, the general and protagonist, seems initially to be totally lacking in sexism. He loves Desdemona as an equal and accepts her with no preconditions:

As this that I have reach'd: for know, Iago,

But that I love the gentle Desdemona,

I would not my unhoused free condition

Put into circumscription and confine

For the sea's worth. (1.2)

When Brabantio has finally located Othello, with torches on another street in the middle of the night, the senator exclaims loudly his right of ownership: “O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter?” With the Turkish campaign against Cyprus in motion, the Duke of Venice scarcely has time for Brabantio’s protestations. Furthermore, the duke recognizes Desdemona’s right to marry whomever she prefers. In exasperation the senator disowns his Desdemona, not permitting her to stay at home while Othello is away at Cyprus. So she goes with the ancient and Emilia.

The First Senator encourages the newly married general: “Adieu, brave Moor, use Desdemona well.” The word use conveys the sexist belief of the husband’s ownership of the wife. Later, when Roderigo confesses to Iago his depression and suicidal feelings over the loss of Desdemona, the ancient seeks to keep him alive by
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