Desdemona - Virtuous Woman or Modern Woman Challenging Oppressive Societal Values?

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The polysemic nature of Shakespeare’s Othello means that throughout time, different cultures have found certain readings of particular characters more relevant than others. For example, there are many possible readings of Desdemona, but two of the more dominant interpretations include seeing her as the ideal wife who falls victim to an abusive husband and viewing Desdemona as a progressive woman who contributed to her downfall by being outspoken and challenging the position of women in her time. Both readings are relevant to contemporary society especially when you take into consideration the role feminism has played in shaping modern thinking and the number of abusive relationships portrayed in our media. However as will be shown,…show more content…
• Many female characters in movies perform functional roles that provide a love interest and victim for heroes to save.
The view that women should be innocent and faithful is a very old cultural assumption that is still relevant today.

A reading that constructs Desdemona as the innocent and pure victim will be more relevant to contemporary society because most audience members will feel comfortable with this type of representation. Although a reading that challenges the traditional roles of women in society maybe beneficial to the community, it is also more likely to be rejected by segments of the community who feel uncomfortable with the commentary it makes on society. Therefore, a reading of Desdemona that perpetrates stereotypes by relying on traditional discourses of femininity prevalent in our media will be the more relevant to modern audiences.’

Desdemona is a character that can be read in multiple ways, some of which are more relevant to contemporary society than others. Desdemona can be interpreted as the “good woman” who despite displaying great virtues is murdered by her jealous husband or as a modern woman challenging oppressive societal values. Both readings are relevant to modern society however interpreting Desdemona, as the innocent victim is more relevant for contemporary society as audiences are more familiar with this

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