A Feminist Reading of Othello

Essay by johndylanHigh School, 11th gradeA, January 2007

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Question: Why is Othello relevant today?

Othello is relevant today because of its ability to be interpreted from different perspectives and have different readings applied to it. One such reading is the Feminist reading.

The opening scenes of Othello establish firm Gender identities, and a patriarchal context for the play. The Gender identities are established in the way Othello's speaks about of his wooing of Desdemona, where he says,

"...her father questioned me the story of my life...

battles, sieges, fortunes that I had passed...

and often did beguile her of tears..."

Looking from a feminist perspective, Othello in this extract establishes the traditional male gender identity of the strong militaristic Macho man, and of the submissive, emotional woman. He states that he won Desdemona because of his manly exploits. Desdemona confirms this when she says:

"... to his honours and valiant parts did I my soul and fortunes consecrate."

Desdemona is also portrayed in the previous extract as highly emotional, and this is again shown in Othello's line:

"...she gave my for my pains a world of signs"

where Desdemona is said to cry at:

"some distressful stroke that my youth suffered"

Looking from a critical feminist position, this portrayal of women as emotional is relevant to the modern reader as it reinforces stereotypical gender identities. However, looking at later scenes such as the Scene with Emilia and Desdemona talking about infidelity, and the death scene, these gender identities are challenged by Emilia, and then the consequences of relying on these gender identities becomes apparent.

The opening scene also establishes the existence of a traditional patriarchal society, and later action in the play highlights the flaws in this society. This patriarchy where women are seen more as objects than as people is particularly evident in the...