Treatment of Women throughout Othello Essay

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Treatment of Women throughout Othello

Lamentably, sexism raises its ugly head even in such an unquestionably great tragedy as William Shakespeare’s Othello. Let us pursue a study of the problem in this essay.

In William Shakespeare: The Tragedies, Paul A. Jorgensen describes the sexist “brothel scene” in Othello:

The “brothel scene” (4.2), sadistically cruel because in it he talks to Desdemona as to a whore, is yet full of tearful agony and even ardent tenderness. It redeems him in his wish that heaven were trying him with affliction – a theologically saving belief; and it opens momentarily his heart when he sees his worst affliction – without which he could bear the ordeal – being discarded from “there
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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 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

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