Othello by William Shakespeare A discussion on the portrayal of women in Shakespeare's play Othello.

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William Shakespeare's play Othello is set in a time when women were supposed to have the characteristics of chastity, silence and obedience. A major theme of the play is jealousy, which the three women in the play Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca contribute to. Focus is put on the role of the husband's and their wives' fidelity to them. The jealousy and treatment of Othello, Cassio and Iago towards the women fuels the plot and turns the readers attention away from them to empathize with Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca.

Bianca has the smallest role of the women in the play, yet an important one. She is Cassio's mistress, whom he treats without respect. Bianca is a prostitute but in act three she expresses her desire to be involved in a relationship with Cassio questioning his whereabouts:


And I was going to your lodging, Cassio

What, keep a week away? seven days and nights?

Eightscore eight hours? And lovers' absent hours,

More tedious the dial eightscore times?

O weary reck'ning! (3.4.171-75).

To Cassio the relationship is purely physical telling Iago,

CASSIO So hangs, and lolls, and weeps upon me; so

Shakes and pulls me! Ha, ha, ha! (4.1.137-138).

Bianca also plays an unknowing role in Othello's jealousy. She receives Desdemona's handkerchief from Cassio and gives it back to him when she discovers it is another woman's. Her outburst at Cassio gives the on looking Othello what he thinks is proof of Desdemona's infidelity. This also shows Bianca's strong character being able to stand up to a man which does not follow the stereotypical view of women of the time.

Emilia is Iago's wife whose job is to attend to Desdemona. She is a strong-minded woman who is not very intellectual but relies on her intuition. She is loyal to both her...