Sexism in Othello Essay

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Othello: the Unquestionable Sexism

Shakespeare’s tragic drama Othello features sexism as regular fare – initially from Brabantio and Iago, and finally from Othello. Let us in this essay explore the occurrences and severity of sexism in the drama.

In “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello” Valerie Wayne implicates Iago in sexism. He is one who is almost incapable of any other perspective on women than a sexist one:

Iago’s worry that he cannot do what Desdemona asks implies that his dispraise of women was candid and easily produced, while the praise requires labour and inspiration from a source beyond himself. His insufficiency is more surprising because elsewhere in the play Iago appears as a master
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. .] .” Implied in this move is the fact of a father’s assumed control over the daughter’s choice of a marriage partner. Iago’s warning to the senator follows closely: “'Zounds, sir, you're robb'd; for shame, put on your gown; / Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul.” This statement also implies that the father has authority over the daughter. Brabantio’s admonition to Roderigo implicitly expresses the same message:

The worser welcome:

I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors:

In honest plainness thou hast heard me say

My daughter is not for thee [. . .] . (1.1)

Iago’s continuing earthy appraisals of the situation all seem to bestow upon the father the power to make decisions for the daughter. Roderigo even calls Desdemona’s action a “revolt” against paternal authority: “Your daughter, if you have not given her leave, / I say again, hath made a gross revolt [. . .] .” Upon verifying the absence of his daughter from the home, Brabantio exhorts all fathers to “trust not” their daughters, implicitly alleging a predisposition among young ladies to rebel against authority.

Othello, the general and protagonist, seems initially to be totally lacking in sexism. He loves Desdemona

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