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Othello The role of women

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1 Othello The role of women
You will make notes from this powerpoint, and from my lecture that accompanies it.

2 Essay topics the following notes will be handy for:
The position of women in Shakespearean drama Character essays on Desdemona/Emilia/Othello/Iago Why the relationship falls apart Reputation This is not to say that these notes will enable you to write a complete essay on every single topic. It is expected you will synthesise the information you learn into an answer (pick ‘n mix).

3 Women in the Elizabethan period
Similar to the 19th century (think back to WSS) A patriarchal society dictated women obey men Expected to be virginal and chaste because… It was through them that blood and wealth was transmitted from father to son. If your wife wasn’t faithful, how could you trust that your child really was yours? Out of control wife=husband’s reputation suffers Question: Who was the very first woman? What happened to Adam because of her? In the more extreme views of the day, people could be extremely weary of women – of how they could taint bloodlines and lure men into dishonest dealings.

4 Brabantio Brabantio believes that a daughter’s first duty should be obedience to her father Sees her elopement as a crime against this duty O heaven! How got she out? O treason of the blood. Brabantio is speaking literally as well as figuratively – Desdemona IS his blood; her rebellion is a rebellion of part of himself.

5 Brabantio Brabantio believes Desdemona has been tricked into marrying Othello Doesn’t think she is capable of making her own decisions She is abused, stolen from me and corrupted by spells and medicines.

6 Desdemona More than capable of standing up for herself and choosing her allegiance Obvious that it must lie with her husband her duty is due to the Moor Initially, a picture of powerful womanhood Asserts her independence from patriarchy by choosing her own husband

7 The Courtship Devour up my discourse
Eagerness to hear Othello’s tales of adventure suggests that Desdemona feels constrained Neglects domestic duties in order to …with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse Desdemona makes the first move with Othello, when she tells him that “she wished that heaven had made her such a man”.

8 Look at Othello’s speech at 1.3.127
What sorts of things did Desdemona hear Othello speak of? What about Othello might Desdemona have been attracted to?

9 The Courtship Falls in love with idea of O’s heroism and exoticism
Relationship based on ideal, rather than knowledge and intimacy One of the reasons why Othello is so easily convinced of her infidelity

10 Iago You rise to play and go to bed to work scathing of women0
bawdy speech suggests true feelings You rise to play and go to bed to work

11 Iago Easily convinced by rumours of his wife’s infidelity
I, for mere suspicion in that kind, Will do as if for surety. Knows that Desdemona is innocent and virtuous, but is still determined to turn her virtue into pitch

12 Iago as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys
Use of lewd and bestial imagery suggests that he sees sex as an animalistic and entirely physical act Says that Desdemona and Cassio are as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys

13 Iago Our general’s wife is now the general
Part of Iago’s contempt for Othello is located in his fear that Desdemona has power He feels that a man shows weakness by allowing a woman to have power over him Our general’s wife is now the general

14 Othello Demonstrates his willingness to obey Desdemona when she first pleads Cassio’s suit let him come when he will; I will deny thee nothing.

15 Othello However, Othello’s jealousy is easily invoked
A military man = little knowledge of love and romance Iago manipulates Othello’s sense of himself as an outsider, saying that he doesn’t understand the way women in Venetian society conduct their romantic affairs: In Venice they do let God see the pranks they dare not show their husbands

16 Othello Easily and thoroughly convinced of Desdemona’s infidelity
Does not even allow Desdemona the opportunity to defend herself, abusing her and accusing her of crying for effect only: If that the earth could teem with woman’s tears, Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.

17 Othello Love for Desdemona based on an ideal
If he really knew her, he would know she was incapable of infidelity Sees her death as a necessary sacrifice in order to preserve the image of her purity and perfection

18 Bianca Cassio’s lover Owns her own home
Has the pride to be offended by and to vigorously defend herself against the insults of Emilia: I am no strumpet, but of life as honest as you that thus abuse me.

19 Bianca O, my dear Cassio, my sweet Cassio.
Loves Cassio and shows concern for him when stabbed O, my dear Cassio, my sweet Cassio.

20 Bianca What! Keep a week away? and of giving her some minx’s token
Relationship with Cassio is contrasted with Othello’s with Desdemona Both Bianca and Othello are jealous of their partner Bianca accuses Cassio of avoiding her: What! Keep a week away? and of giving her some minx’s token The difference is that Bianca’s jealousy is justified – it is the nature of such relationships that he will eventually leave her.

21 Emilia Though sharp-tongued, an obedient wife to Iago.
Against her better judgement, steals the handkerchief at his request, initially not questioning his purpose: What he will do with it, heaven knows, not I: I nothing, but to please his fantasy

22 Emilia Cynical about male-female relationships
Uses imagery of devouring to describe the way men treat women: They are all but stomachs, and we are all but food.

23 Emilia Believes that men eagerly take what they want from women, but discard them when their appetites are sated: They eat us hungerly, and when they are full, they belch us. Believes that it is the fault of men’s ill-treatment if wives do fall

24 Emilia Ordinary voice of common sense in the play
Denouement, the unveiling of all lies and dishonesty, comes through her Refuses to be silenced: Let heaven, and men, and devils, let them all, all cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak.

25 Emilia most filthy bargain Villainy, villainy, villainy! Calls Othello
ignorant as dirt his marriage to Desdemona a most filthy bargain and her husband’s plot Villainy, villainy, villainy! Dies protesting Desdemona’s innocence.

26 Desdemona Unable to believe that an unfaithful woman exists:
I do not think there is any such woman. Totally submissive and obedient I will not stay to offend you

27 Desdemona Refuses to blame Othello for her death. When asked who is to blame, she replies Nobody – I myself. The audience’s pity for Desdemona is complete because she is completely blameless. Her only flaw (a tragic one) is her love for Othello. When he tells her to think on your sins, she identifies them as loves I bear to you.

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