Othello by William Shakespeare was a fantastic play that reflected Shakespeare’s period’s social and political ideals. It was about Othello, a black army commander who married Desdemona, the white daughter of a powerful politician; their romance was challenging to maintain in a time of prejudice and misogyny. Through the three ladies in the play, Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca, William Shakespeare explores the cultural expectations of women in Elizabethan culture (Alamri). The ladies act and behave according to Shakespeare’s Elizabethan society’s social and gender norms. We witness this from the play’s opening when Iago employs sexist and derogatory words because he feels women are irritating sex objects. He says he would “drown himself for the love of a guinea-hen” in his connection with Emilia (Shakespeare and Editors 42). Iago calls his wife a prostitute and makes other harsh remarks later in the play.
In Shakespeare’s Othello, women have considered men’s property. Brabantio complains to the Duke of Venice in the play’s first act that Othello has taken and “drugged” his daughter. The Senate supports Othello’s argument, and the Duke allows Desdemona to join him in Cyprus for the military expedition. With the phrase, “To his conveyance, I shall assign my wife,” Othello informs Iago that he will submit his wife to Iago’s care (Shakespeare and Editors 61). This remark may not appear to be very noteworthy, but it suggests that Desdemona, Othello’s wife, is a form of property who must be guarded and transferred.
This was common during Shakespeare’s day when women were considered the weaker sex and required protection; when a woman married, she had to be safeguarded by a male. “Adieu, noble Moor; use Desdemona well,” the first senator exclaimed as Othello left, implying that the term “use” substitutes the phrase “care after” in the play (Shahwan). This remark may also describe the Venetian expectation of a woman who submits to her husband and uses him. What Othello has stated appears to be highly beautiful and kind words during Shakespeare’s period, as it encourages women’s roles after marriage. Terms like “use” and “buy” are similar to what the first senator said. (Shakespeare and Editors 87). The husband buys the woman as property, and she is expected to fulfill the husband’s desires for the privilege of being married.
Alamri, Dawla S. “Shakespeare’s and Shawqi’s Cleopatra: Portrayals of a Woman’s Moral Dilemma.” International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, vol. 5, no. 4, 2022, pp. 76–85. Crossref, doi:10.32996/ijllt.2022.5.4.10.
Shahwan, Saed. “Gender Roles in the Merchant of Venice and Othello.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2022, pp. 158–64. Crossref, doi:10.17507/tpls.1201.19.
Shakespeare, William and Editors, GP. Othello. 1st ed., General Press, 2018.