Contradictory Characterisations of Women in Shakespeare's Othello

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Contradictory Characterisations of Women in Shakespeare's Othello

Othello opens with a discussion between two men concerning the fate of a very beautiful woman named Desdemona. One of the men is distraught, having tried to win her love but miserably failed, and the other agrees that she is quite a prize. A prize is not just a name for Desdemona, as her humanity is lost somewhere along the way and she ceases to be anything but a prize to be won. Both men are angry and want to seek revenge against the man who won her, slandering Desdemona’s name in the process. Their superior and rival, the man who won Desdemona, is none other than Othello. Othello has proven the two men inferior, obtaining what they could not. The two other
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The three women's eventual destinies are interlinked with the plays central symbol: the handkerchief.

Women are major characters in Shakespeare's plays. In "Othello" women are treated no different. They are defined rather uniquely. These definitions inhibit upon Shakespearean society. Women in that era were supposed to be obedient, silent and chaste. If a lady were not any of these aforementioned characteristics, then she would not be acceptable by the norms of the Elizabethan society.

Desdemona disobeys the standards set by Elizabethan society, she is not silent and obedient at the questioning of Othello. She, in fact, disobeys her Father to be with her husband. She speaks up for Othello at the hearing and implores the Duke to allow her to go to Cyprus, something that women just do not do. In the end, her quality of being chaste would be questioned by Othello. By his own method he determines that she is guilty of infidelity.

Desdemona occupies contradictory positions in "Othello", she is both "half the wooer" (an active female who makes her own choices to marry Othello and to defend Cassio) and the passive prey or victim. Her husband, Othello, truly loves her, yet he thinks less of how she feels and more of how she makes him happy. The moment

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