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Othello Women - Character Profile on Desdemona

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For my English homework I had to write a character profile on Desdemona, I have done this, but there seems to be something missing. Any help would be appreciated. It is 646 words long, so feel free to skim.

Desdemona changes throughout the play, at the start she is extremely rebellious for a aristocratic women in 16th century Venice, she goes against her fathers wishes and elopes with with a black man who used to be a slave; Desdemona also speaks up to the senate, which was very forthright and brave for a women of her time, they were thought to be possessions and not much more. In 21st century England, the fact that she spoke up to the senate is not revolutionary, or even out of the ordinary; social standards and views have changed dramatically in the past four hundred years. That she married an older, black man, however, would be surprising even today, however, and would even cause disapproval from some people, therefor, seeing as we have progressed so much in the view of acceptance, it must have been truly revolutionary and rebellious of Desdemona to do this; this is shown by her father when he instantly assumes that Othello must have used witch craft to 'woo' her.

Desdemona has two main sides to her character, the forthright and rebellious girl who she is at the start of the play, where she is described as 'half the wooer', and, if you flip the coin to her other, totally polar opposite character, you find the conformist, obedient girl that is the victim or pawn of more than one man in this play. I do not think, however, that, even when she went against her fathers wishes, she was becoming independent, she was simply changing who she was obedient to, she thought a wife should be loyal to her husband before her father, as we can see when she says, 'So much duty as my mother show'd / To you, preferring you before her father, / So much I challenge, that I may profess / Due to the Moor, my lord.'. Desdemona was

brought in a time when women followed men and had absolute loyalty towards them, she does though, hold some power over Othello as he loves her so much, Iago calls her 'our great captain's captain'. She knew how to run a household and all the social etiquette needed for a women in her position, what she did not know, however, was how to think for herself; I think this is part of the reason she becomes so passive and subservient after leaving Venice, she is in a knew environment which is completely different to what she is used to and she does not know what to do, so she does the one thing she does know how to do, that is to follow her 'Lord'.

Desdemona is a major part of the colour symbolism in Elizabethan morality; white is associated with purity, innocence, and virtuousness, she is the epitome of all of these things; black is associated with revenge, guilt, and jealousy, which is a major part of Othello's character - this symbolism is a key part to the theme of racism running throughout this play.

Virtually everyone, in this play, loves Desdemona, not necessarily romantically, but they hold her in high esteem and respect, her innocence and purity. Only one character does not like her, Iago, in fact, hates the traits that make Desdemona so favourable to other characters, he sees her honesty and loyalty as weakness and despises her for it, he uses her as a pawn in his deceitful plots and vengeful games.

Desdemona's death can be considered sacrificial, in that, her death is needed to reveal the truth about Iago, and so prevents him from ruining and ending even more lives. I think Desdemona is a tragic heroine, not only for her death, but also for the fact that her suffering is not proportionate to her mistakes; she is verbally and physically abused, used as a pawn in Iago's games, and is eventually murdered.

The Character of Emilia in Othello

The definition of Renaissance women is fundamentally important in William Shakespeare's play Othello. One of the major causes of Othello's tragedy is his belief that Desdemona is not chaste. According to the men of the Renaissance, chastity, silence, and obedience are three attributes that define Renaissance women. Although Othello takes place during the Renaissance, the women in the play, Bianca, Desdemona and Emilia, defy traditional norms by lacking at least one of the major attributes defining women; Bianca's lack of chastity is clearly displayed when she unlawfully sleeps with Cassio; Desdemona's lack of silence is clearly displayed when she constantly urges Othello to give Cassio's position back. However, in the last two acts, Emilia displays the strongest challenge to the definition of Renaissance women as silent, chaste, and obedient, mainly to defend Desdemona.

First, in order to defend Desdemona's chastity, Emilia challenges the societal norm of silence. Recall the incident when Othello calls Desdemona a "whore" for cheating. In response, Emilia protests loudly against Othello and attempts to disprove his belief that Desdemona is not chaste: "A halter pardon him [Othello]! And hell gnaw his bones! / Why should he call her [Desdemona] whore? (4.2. 143,144). Instead of Emilia conforming to the attribute of Renaissance women as silent, she condemns Othello for his false accusations against her mistress, Desdemona. Later in the play, after finding Desdemona killed, Emilia challenges silence again: "As ignorant as dirt! Thou hast done a deed-... / The Moor hath killed my mistress!" (5.2. 171,174). Although Othello tells Emilia that it would be "best" for her to remain silent, she ignores his request and ridicules him for killing "sweet" Desdemona (5.2. 169).

Secondly, Emilia mentally challenges the social norm of chastity by condoning women that deceive their husbands. Although Emilia does not explicitly state whether she has ever cheated, she does say that she would not cheat for small, material wealth, but any woman would cheat in order to make her husband king: "Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? (4.3. 77). Furthermore, Emilia explains that the reason women cheat is because their husbands "slack their duties" and "break out into peevish jealousies (4.3. 87, 89). In essence, Emilia accepts the "abuse" of men by women because she feels that it is the husband's flaws that evoke the women to cheat.

Finally, Emilia challenges obedience when she disobeys Iago in order to defend Desdemona. After Desdemona is killed, Othello speaks of Desdemona's unfaithfulness and of the symbolic handkerchief that she supposedly gave to Cassio: "With that recognizance and pledge of love / which I first gave her. I saw



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