Analysis of the Women’s Role in “Othello”





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Analysis of the Women’s Role in “Othello”

William Shakespeare’s work, “Othello” is a favorite play that signifies the destructive nature of men distrust in a patriarchal social environment. Shakespeare uses the play as an illumination of that male-dominated social conditions in the society during the era when the book was being published. Women are viewed as submissive to men’s actions and as their possession who are most significant when it comes to sexism and obeying the male orders. Gender has been expressed as a sensitive matter in the community postulated in the play where women are seen to be victims of men jealousy that leads to the degradation of their social rights. Women in the story are illustrated as marriage commodities that are significant mainly in satisfying their husbands sexually, rearing children as well as helping them in achieving their objectives and desires. Only three women are featured in Othello who include Emilia, Bianca, and Desdemona. In this discussion, the role of women in the play is discussed in a profound extent about their influence on male chauvinism which is a major theme as well as the gender issues depicted.

The patriarchal society portrayed by Shakespeare in “Othello” privileges male-dominated marriages where women are restricted and suppressed to a state of no decision making even at the family level. Why are women hypothesized as submissive and generous creatures? It is an inquisitive question that lingers in the reader’s mind at the next instance that one reads the production. According to the Shakespeare’s point of view regarding the depicted community women are supposed to obedient and trustworthy. Men dominance is an awful part of women coexistence in the society as they gave their husbands the genuine love and adhered to their commands and way of living. It is ironical that men do not give back the love and respect depicted to them by the women in the community (Shakespeare, page 41). Role of women is significant in creating the plot of the play and enhancing the common theme. Shakespeare develops women characters as both sophisticated and strong in the play. The role of women in the story will be discussed in context to the actions in different scenarios portrayed in the story by every specific woman featured.

At first, the instance is Desdemona who is the wife of Othello. She has all the friendly features of a woman in the community such as obedient, impassiveness, kindness and she significantly compose a high dignity in the society represented. Her characters are contradictory to those of Othello who is masculine, authoritative, jealous, antagonistic and misunderstanding. The wives and daughters in the community are supposed to portray respect to their husbands, fathers, brothers as well as other men elder and younger men. Desdemona conventionally stays by the mentioned rules as she significantly depicts herself as a child who adheres to all her husband’s ruthless actions and follows all the communities’ rules. She could not question Othello at any instance even if he subjects her to hostility and other unethical actions that are degrading. Desdemona’s behaviors are pleasing even though the act of submissiveness leads to her state of unwell-being and at the end her death. Women are depicted as men’s commodities in the society and Desdemona is a sound example of the same. After her father act of agreeing to Othello’s request, she did not argue or contradict with their decision of her accompanying the husband to the new lands away from Venice.

The other women who efficiently plays a role in the story are Bianca who was the Casio’s concubine. She depicted jealousy character in accordance to her state living together with her lover and others in the community. For instance, selfishness was portrayed by her attitudes and reactions after the handkerchief shown to her by Casio. He had the intention of producing an example of the kind of scarf of desire that she could mend for him. However, Bianca was furious and suspected him untrustworthy while it was not the case. Lago mistreated her and did not show any respect as he referred to her as a prostitute. It portrayed she a victim of the male chauvinism in the society and did not have the freedom to do her things freely without men intervention. At the end of the play, she remains the only women survivor, even though her existence was significantly related to the demise of Desdemona.

Furthermore, Emilia who was the wife of Lago is another woman who has much-postulated gender and role of women in the play. She unwillingly helped Lago to despair Desdemona hence showing women’s submissiveness and trust to their husbands and other people. Her husband had the intention of ruining the relationship between Othello and Desdemona, and he wisely used her as the intermediate element. Emilia’s act of defending Desdemona before the eyes Othello by claiming that she was honest and trustworthy. However, Othello was furious regarding the action of his wife handkerchief being found with Casio and Emilia’s pleas fall on deaf ears. Emilia ended up being killed by Lago, her husband knowingly but she had no otherwise. At this sad moment, she sang the willow song signifying men dominance in the society as well as women degradation. She is portrayed as a Lago’s possession as he had the authority to do anything to her up to the extent of assassination as one can own any other commodity (Shakespeare page 34).In the play, Shakespeare significantly applies the literary devices such as symbolism, figurative language, settings, plot, imagery and plot to make it attractive as well as apparently passing his message about traditional customs with regards to male chauvinism in the society. However, in this discussion male chauvinism will be significantly be applied in the context of elaborating the role of women portrayed in the play. The act of men harassing women and depicting them to a state of no civil rights such as gender equality and respect in the community signifies the community’s erosion of ethical values. The marriages contained in the story are patriarchal starting with that of Othello and Desdemona to Lago and Emilia’s family.

Women are significantly treated as sex gadgets where they are even trade in Venice as any other goods, and they are literary there to enhance the sexual satisfaction of their partners. Lago refers to Bianca as a prostitute demonstrating how immoral the women are and they are always available to follow men orders. Women’s rights are corrupted by male sexism, and they end up being their possessions who are only there to color the life and perish on the will of the masculine gender wish. For instance, the act of the Desdemona being dedicated to Othello’s hands without her intervention suggests that the community is male-dominated and women have no say about their marital status and well-being. The social environment in the text is not conducive to the feminine gender regardless of their social status and t the long last women remains men possession.

Throughout the play, the theme of male chauvinism enhances the plot of the play from its conflict to the climax. It is through the issue that Shakespeare efficiently expresses the state of the social status during that particular period and can significantly bring the picture of women were besmirched. In both the sides that the play is depicted, one in Venice which is portrayed to be a place of order while the other hand is Cyprus which is the land of anarchy and men in the society dominate chaotic women. Women are granted the lowest social-economic and political position in the community. For example, female does not have the right to own properties as well as participate in civic affairs. The case that happened in the Duke’s place in Venice is a clear illustration that indicates marginalization of women in the society as Desdemona is used as an object owned by both her husband as well as the father. The father states that she was corrupted from him and abused while on the other side Othello says that he owns her.

In the play, Shakespeare depicts women as submissive as well as browbeaten in such a way that they viewed victimization as a regular thing hence ended up putting no efforts to fight for their rights or showing resistance against patriarchal. There is excellent evidence from the play to support the statement. For instance, Desdemona by herself declares that she is obedient and she significantly follows her husband’s way till their early marriage stage to the late stage when Othello developed selfishness. At the instance when she is ordered by Othello to go to her bed, she is submissive without even further consultation as she alters “I will, my lord.” Even at her last moment, she remains submissive to her husband as she tells him to commend her to her kind lord (Elsdon, page 11). It is clear that Desdemona has significantly accepted to live as an obedient wife throughout her life.

As discussed above, the role of women has significantly been illustrated in the Shakespeare’s play “Othello” with regards to the gender role and male chauvinism theme. The belief that men are superior in consideration intelligence and other social matters suggest the social status of the society during the early decades. Male chauvinism has been fought against in the society as women are granted equal rights as men. Also, marriage patriarchal has been put in consideration as both the husband and women have the right to make decisions in a family. “Othello” is an exciting and educative play in the society today as well as for the future generation as it shows how the nation can end up as if gender equality is not put in consideration and its effects to the state of women’s well-being.


Elsdon, Graham. Othello, William Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Shakespeare, William. Othello (Norton Critical Editions). WW Norton & Company, 2017.