Othello: Importance of Women

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While Iago manipulates Desdemona’s reputation to cause the downfall of almost every primary character in Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona still exhibits power that defies her role as a female in a patriarchal society. Her reputation is subject both to Iago’s shrewd attacks and to her society’s structure; which unknowingly puts the men at risk while they think they are securing their own safety by confining these women. Desdemona is treated as a product exchanged by men and is smothered by Othello in his efforts to protect other men and keep her sexuality contained. Iago objectifies Desdemona as he manipulates Othello’s perspective of her until Othello literally deconstructs his wife, despite her innocence. Though she seems the stereotypical female, Desdemona breaks free of gender constraints as she defies her father and exhibits complete control over Othello at the beginning of the play. It is only through Iago’s influence over Othello that Desdemona succumbs to the patriarchal structure of her society, leading not only to her downfall but most other main characters downfall as well. Desdemona helps reveal the women’s potential as a whole in the beginning of the play by defying the dominating male force within her society and proves to be a powerful female force. She has a surprising amount of influence over the characters, especially Othello. It is only after Iago poisons Othello’s mind that Desdemona loses power over her husband. Desdemona is at the mercy of Iago’s schemes, but her helplessness is not the result of her role as a woman. She is rarely influenced by Iago, and as she exhibits in Act II, Scene I, Desdemona publically disapproves of Iago’s treatment of Emilia. Even though Desdemona eventually falls victim to Iago as he successfully turns “her virtue into pitch” in Othello’s eyes, she does not allow Iago to maneuver her as one of his puppets as he does

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