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Is the Othello, Moor of Venice more of a noble man or an animalistic character? Do the traditional views on women lead to their low status and subjective role in the society. Does Othello suffer unfair racial judgment just because he is black. The protagonist portrayal of Othello as a brave character is over shadowed by his inability to take control of his passions, which lead him to murder Desdemona. The theme of stereotypes gender and racial are portrayed through the conflicting feminist and anti-feminist ideas.
The conflicting ideas range from gender differences all through to racial tensions. The probing idea of racial conflict develops from the protagonist's different ethnical background. The dimension of the gender conflict is heightened by the presence of opposing female characters. Theme of or gender difference and that of racial conflict are closely related in that there are similar ties of stereotype. The ethnic tension in the ply is complicated by the treatment of gender difference and gender role dominance (David Schneider, 2004 pg 74).
Women roles form an integral piece of the play. A woman's chastity is highly regarded. Desmona's infidelity is followed and at last leads to the death of several characters inclusive of his husband and her. Lago has a profound hatred for women, which is his ultimate drive in leading Othello to such Jealousy. Desdemona and Emilia are the source of conflict for gender issues and feminist ideas. There is a stiff tension between feminist and those opposed to feminist ideas in which women are portrayed with such complexity. Desdemona, who is Branitio's daughter, is presented as the ideal woman. She is a chaste, virtuous, beautiful woman. Cassio's description of Desdemona terms her as "divine" (2.1.74). Cassio confesses to Lago that ("she is indeed perfection") (2.3.25). Her answer to her father shows that she is eloquent and independent. She professes her loyalty to Othello and Brabantio and claims that the moor is her lord now. Desdemona boldly make a profess of her love for Othello to her father and the duke.
Her wish "our loves and comforts should increase even as our days grow" portrays her honesty in her love for her husband. Desdemona profess of her love to her husband is strictly free of feminist notions about relationships. Her claim is that, she would never cheat on her husband and no t even "for the whole world". Desdemona is submissive and absolutely passive in her marriage. She portrays her real "simpleness". On several occasions, Desdemona is obedient to her husband unflatteringly. When the situation gets worse, that is, after Othello physically abuses her, she bids farewell and sets off because"will not stay to offend" him. After the abuse, she approaches Lago and asks him"what shall I do to win my lord again?" Desdemona's ideal personality is built on her virtuous and chaste character. She is an intelligent woman who willing sticks up herself to her father in order to defend her love for Othello. She is meek stereotypical meek wife who is passive and submissive all through in her relationship with Othello (Ann Gordon & Jerry Miller, 2005 pg 64).
Contrary, Emilia, who is Lago's wife, is a feminist with firm feminist notions. However, in some instances, she too is obedient to her husband. She only pleases her husband by picking up a handerchief which Othello gave Desdemona for the reason thatLago"hath a hundred times wooed her to steal" also mentioning that she does "nothing but to please his fantasy" . In that very dialogue, Emilia calls her "wayward". Later, after giving the handkerchief to Lago she asks him why he wanted it and threatens him that she would take it back if it were not meant for some good intention. In their conversation earlier defiantly asserts her independence by talking back to Lago, she says,"You should not write my praise".
Furthermore, in her talk about infidelity with her friend, Desdemona, Emilia tells her that she would commit adultery giving the response "Nor I neither by his heavenly light; I might do 't as well I' the dark". In her opinion, Emilia professes that that it is the husband's fault if a wife falls. Thus, Emilia asserts what she believes, that is women have "some revenge". Emilia is the vocal feminist voice of the play. This is evidenced by her assertion of her independence from Othello and admitting that she would commit adultery if the reward were worth it. Emilia's attitude towards men is cynical, in what she says, "They are all but stomachs, and we are al but food; they eat us hungrily, and when they are full They belch us". (David Schneider, 2004 pg 45).
The various male characters in the play have different views about women. Cassio for instance, idealizes Desdemona so often, to the extent of believing that she is "perfection" .Lago's attitude towards women is rather critical and negative. Lago's says to Emilia that women are "pictures out of doors, Bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchens, Saints in your injuries, devils being offended, players in your housewifery and housewives in your beds" with intention of asserting that women are often deceptive. Lago refers to women in a cynical attitude characterizing them as being foolish and unfaithful (Ann Gordon & Jerry Miller, 2005 pg 74).
The conflict centers on sexual difference and racial difference. Women are generally judged as unfaithful and deceptive by some characters just because they are women. Othello is also judged unfairly just because of the fact that he is black. Women are treated violently like in the case of Desdemona and Othello. In some instances, women are assumed unfaithful even if there is no proof to the claims by the accusers. Both Emilia and Desdemona are abused physically by their husbands. Women are undermined and prejudged as wicked. (David Schneider, 2004 pg 72).
Othello on the other hand loves and praises Desdemona. He say to Lago,"But that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhoused free condition put into circumscription and confine for the sea's worth". Othello says to his wife"canot speak enough of this content, it is too much of joy". However, after he is convinced that Desdemona is being unfaithful, he changes his attitude and becomes hostile to the extent of hitting his wife. It gets worse with Othello calling her a strumpet and eventually murders her because of her suspected infidelity. His former attitude towards women changes from idealization into hatred. Othello is in conflict with traditional views about women and feminist views.
Othello is also in conflict with the idealization of women and the resentment of women. The conflict of feminist and anti-feminist ideas are brought out clearly through Desdemona who is an extreme of the ideal passive wife in contrast with Emilia who is an extreme of an independent, assertive woman. It is unfortunate that it is Desdemona who is unfairly strangled, mistreated and accused unfairly. Although Emilia is also murdered by her husband, Desdemona is smothered thus manipulated by her husband more than Emilia who was wicked. Desdemona and Othello's marriage portrays the stereotype of the violent Moor and the passive wife. The marriage itself strengthens Othello's racial view (Ann Gordon & Jerry Miller, 2005 pg 94).
Racism against Othello is portrayed through gender differences as well as the striking tension between Desdemona and traditional views and Emilia's feminist view. Racial tension is not clearly defined, as some characters are racist while others are non-racist. Lago is the major racist who raises a negative attitude against Othello on basis of his ethnicity. Although Othello is thought a brave personality, he is presented as a harsh and violent , a popular stereotype of "Moors." The language used to describe Othello presents him as animalistic due to his failure to control his passions. The associations of Othello with barbaric deeds are used to bring about the stereotypes of characters from different ethnic background and Africans (David Schneider, 2004 pg 144).