Essay about The Women of Othello

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The Women of Othello

Shakespeare's Othello presents us with a male world in which women have an especially rough time. Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca are all rejected by their respective partners, and all three love their men unselfishly and unreservedly, even when confronted by behaviour that we would deem grounds for divorce at the very least. All the women are engaged in unbalanced partnerships: they feel more for their self-centred men than the men are capable of reciprocating. However, the women also display genuine emotions toward each other that is not reflected in any of the male-male relationships.

Emilia and Desdemona are both wives to men that have made the military their lives.
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Emilia is unpinning Desdemona hair and her dressing gown, preparing the girl for bed as if she were a surrogate mother. Such tenderness and tactile expressions of affection are a strictly female domain in this play. It is the men, not the women, who perpetrate the violence.

The conversation maintains this tender, maternal tone through to the end of the scene, but it is most noticeable when Desdemona exclaims, 'O these men, these men!' (4.3.59). Desdemona cannot believe that women cheat on their husbands and asks Emilia, 'Wouldst thou do such a thing for all the world?' (4.3.67). Although she tries to offer a light-hearted answer, Emilia knows full well that Desdemona's view of love is a romantic view and hence, it is not a laughing matter. What follows in blank verse is not unusual for Shakespeare. Emilia speaks for female equality, as Shakespeare's heroines often do. Knowing that both her fate and that of Desdemona are tied up in that of their husbands in social and financial terms, Emilia appeals to the intangible qualities that lie just beyond her grasp: fidelity in love and sensitivity to women's feelings. According to Emilia, if women do not get these things from their partners, then their partners cannot be surprised when women behave as they do.

In effect Emilia is asking for relief from the double standard, echoing Ophelia's

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