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Posted on July 26th, 2012, by

William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, the Moor of Venice is concentrated around three main points: jealousy, hatred and love. This play is an outstanding work of the talented William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare in this play reveals the major themes of communication among the genders, such as treason and jealousy as a consequence of love. As the play has to do with personal relations of the opposite sexes, it is very hard to avoid the theme of sexism in it. Sexism is the discrimination of the basis of gender, primarily it implies the discrimination of women.

Othello’s society is full of sexism towards women as they are not treated as equal to men, but as a possession which needs to follow the desires and the demands of the man. Desdemona, as the collective character of women in the tragedy  is viewed as a  thing that can be possessed , may be taken away from its previous master or even may be killed when it does not correspond to the requirements of the owner. Desdemona dies primarily due to the fact that Othello becomes confident in her betrayal and decides that she must die, else she’ll betray more men (Act 5, Scene 2).Under the pressure of the shame in front of the society Othello changes his love into the play of his ego and blames it to the fact that the men desire to call these delicate creatures ours (Act 3, Scene 3).  The Moor sees Desdemona as a creature which can undermine the good name he has earned with such a difficulty. The tragedy Othello, the Moor of Venice through the main characters reveal the fact of discrimination of women as a cultural element of Othello’s times.


The tragedy sexism theme is supported through the men’s authentic view that the notion of honor is connected with the possession of a woman and the capability to control her. The desire to posses a certain woman according to the Venice society must result in the possession of this woman. Othello confirms it: How I did thrive in this fair lady’s love /
and she in mine. (Act 1, Scene 3). Such holding gives the men the feeling of exclusiveness. Honor, pride is what rules the men of the Othello epoch and not absolute love and devotion. Each man of Venice is looking for a way to break and to bend in the woman in his will. Brabantio’s question Are there not charms / By which the property of youth and maidenhood / May be abused? opens the reader’s eyes to the masculine nature of this concept (Act 1, Scene 1).

Othello’s initial feeling for Desdemona seem to be strong as he treats her as a  person who is equal to him and perceives her as a fair warrior which basically puts her on the same level of respect as ordinarily demonstrated to men. Nevertheless, his thoughts get contaminated by the social perception of women as a gender, revealed in Iago’s attempts to incite Othello against Desdemona. Under Iago’s influence Othello starts treating Desdemona not like an equal anymore but as his thing, his property: nothing can or shall contend my soul / Till I am evened with him, wife for wife (Act 2, Scene 1). He converts his feelings into a game, a wife-barter, into a matter of honor to cleanse his honor by means of another woman. Hence, Desdemona being innocent and loving the Moor converts from an equal to a despised thing: I am abused, and my relief / Must be to loathe her (Act 3, Scene 3).

The character of Iago shows a strong cynicism directed to women. He actually does not take them seriously or respect their feeling and does not even evaluate the possibility to hurt their feelings. For Iago, women are a powerful tool to achieve his goals. He uses Desdemona and he uses Emilia without any remorse. Iago makes fun of women calling them: Bells in your parlours, wild-cats in your kitchens, / Saints in your injuries, devils being offended, / Players in your housewifery, and housewives in your beds (Act 2, Scene 1). As Iago sets Othello against Cassio, the same manner he makes Emilia betray her friendship with Desdemona. Emilia robs the kerchief as she feels that it is her duty to follow his orders: And give’t Iago. What he will do with it, /Heaven knows, not I. /I nothing, but to please his fantasy (Act 3, Scene 3). Here, Emilia reveals the basic stereotype of the Othello’s society: the serves the man. She realizes this predestination but does not do anything about it. She accepts it and perceives herself as Iago’s tool for any actions he chooses.

It might be said that the males from Othello are actually culturally conditioned to sexism as they view women as the possession. They view female sexual entitlement to serve them and their bodies are their property too and therefore cannot be shared with anyone or anything. Emilia perfectly emphasizes what is honor for men: But I do think it is their husbands’ faults/ If wives do fall (Act 4, Scene 3). This implies that in order to be honorable it is better for a man to kill his woman, than to be in the shadow of her betrayal. Othello is not an exception and he let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight but would not question the word of a man against the honest words of his beloved Desdemona.

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