What is equality?
Are both genders treated equally in society? Or does one gender get treated better than the other? William Shakespeare is one of the most prestigious authors of all time. Society questions if Shakespeare wrote his work as an activist or a moderator of his time. One suggestion is that Shakespeare wrote this play to represent the women of his era. William Shakespeare lay “Othello” is about an outsider named Othello that married a senator’s daughter named Desdemona. Othello was fooled by his subordinate named Iago. Iago fooled Othello that his wife Desdemona had cheated on him. Othello killed Desdemona because he believed that she did cheat on him. Othello then killed himself because he found out he was fooled and Desdemona did not cheat on him. There are a total of three women throughout the play. Desdemona as mentioned before is the wife of Othello. Emilia is the wife of Iago. And Bianca is one who has a somewhat relationship with Cassio, who was stripped of his title as lieutenant from Othello. Each and every woman was treated as second rate citizens in “Othello.” The women in this play are never seen on an equal footing to their men counterpart. This play is valuable because it illuminated the unfair treatment that woman received in society compared to men. Shakespeare constructed a predominant male society where women are looked down upon in this play.
First, the women in “Othello” are often portrayed as property that belonged to the men.  For example, Iago went to Brabantio’s house to warn him about Othello. Iago stated, “Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves, thieves! Look to your house, your daughter and your bags! Thieves, Thieves!” (Shakespeare 1.1.82-83). Iago was telling Brabantio about his daughter Desdemona had been taken from him. But the manner in which Iago spoke of Desdemona was in such a way that Desdemona was Brabantio’s possession. Afterward, Brabantio and Othello are in front of the duke to discuss their dispute about Desdemona. Brabantio stated, “She is abused, stol’n from me and corrupted” (Shakespeare 1.3.62). Surprisingly, Brabantio referred to his own daughter as some sort of belonging that was taken from him. This is important because Brabantio spoke in a similar manner as Iago by referring to his daughter as some sort of belonging that he owned. Othello replied, “ for such proceeding I am charged withal I won his daughter” (Shakespeare 1.3.94-95). What’s more, Othello referred to his new wife as some sort of prized possession as well. Another example, Othello was talking to the duke and the first senator. Othello stated “So please your grace, my ancient a man he is of honesty and trust. To his conveyance I assign my wife, with what else needful your good grace shall need to be sent after me” (Shakespeare 1.3.284-289). Othello spoke about Desdemona like she was a treasure chest that must be protected and transported. The first senator replied, “Adieu, brave moor. Use Desdemona well” (Shakespeare 1.3.292). Surprisingly, the first senator also spoke of Desdemona in a sense that she is a tool to be used by Othello. Moments after the arrival in Cyprus, Othello stated, “Come my dear love, the purchase made, the fruits are to ensue; that profits yet to come tween me and you” (Shakespeare 2.3.8-10). Othello described the marriage with Desdemona as some sort of tool that he just purchased. And that Othello may use his new tool in any way he pleases to his heart’s content. These examples are important because they display how strangers, fathers, husbands, and rulers look at women in their society merely as property that they have some sort of ownership over. The logic of the society in “Othello” is if the woman is not married she belongs to her father. If the woman is married then she belongs to her husband. In fact, it has taken the woman’s quality as a human being and labeled her as a mere belonging. Women in “Othello” are frequently depicted as property to men in the play.
Secondly, the women in “Othello” are perceived as sexual objects to men in the play. For example, Iago was talking to Emilia and Desdemona about women in general. Iago stated, “ you rise to play and go to bed to work” (Shakespeare 2.1.114).Obviously, Iago believed a woman’s job is to only have sex. More importantly, it shows that men see women only as sexual objects to satisfy their sexual hunger. Moments later, Emilia is talking to Desdemona about men in general. Emilia stated, “They are all but stomachs, and we all but food. To eat us hungerly, and when they are full, they belch us (Shakespeare 3.4.106-108). In other words Emilia is saying that all men are the same. They use women for sex and once they are satisfied they just throw women away. This is important because it explicitly shows and strengthens the argument of how women are perceived as sexual objects. In “Othello” women were viewed as sexual objects for men to fulfill their sexual desires. Women in Othello are seen as sexual articles to the men in the play. Next, women in Othello” are portrayed as deceitful individuals.  After the dispute between Othello and Brabantio was settled, Brabantio stated, “Look to her moor, if thou has eyes to see. She has deceived her father and may thee” (Shakespeare 1.3.333-334). In other words, Brabantio said if she deceived me her own father you may be next. This incident is interpreted differently from Brabantio’s point of view and Desdemona’s point of view. Obviously, Brabantio felt he had been deceived. Desdemona simply chose what made her happy and that was to marry the man she loved. Yet Desdemona was depicted as a deceitful person by her father because Brabantio viewed Desdemona as his property. It was a social norm to receive the father’s approval before any marriage took place. Another reason may be that Brabantio felt betrayed because everything he has provided for Desdemona (such as a home, food and education) and for her to take matters in her own hands and marry Othello was just wrong to him. Later on in the play Iago is talking to Othello about Desdemona. Iago stated, “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (Shakespeare 3.3220). Othello replied, “and so she did” (Shakespeare 3.3.222). Even Othello thinks Desdemona is a deceitful person now. Othello should have thought that Desdemona was being very loyal to him but he misinterpreted the situation as her being a deceitful person. These examples are important because they show how women are portrayed as deceiving individuals for taking charge of their own life and choosing what made them happy. Women in “Othello” are cast off as deceitful people.
Each woman in “Othello” was portrayed to be whore. While Iago was talking to himself, he stated, “I hate the moor. And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets. He’s done my office. I know not if’t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surelty” (Shakespeare 1.3.370-374). Iago referred to Emilia as his “office” and that he has heard a rumor that Othello might have had sex with her. Iago talked about Emilia like she was a whore yet Iago did not have any concrete evidence to make such an accusation. It was a mere rumor. Later on, Iago was talking to Cassio about a rumor he had heard about him. Iago said he heard a rumor about Cassio marrying Bianca. Bianca and Cassio have sort of relationship with each other but it’s not clear about what kind of relationship they have. As Iago and Cassio talked, Cassio stated, “Tis such another fitchew! Marry a perfumed one” (Shakespeare 4.1.14). Obviously, Cassio doesn’t respect Bianca because he referred to her as a fitchew. Fitchews are polecats. In the era “Othello” was written, polecats were often compared with prostitutes. This is important because it shows Cassio sees Bianca as a prostitute. Afterward, Othello confronted Desdemona about the supposed affair she had with Cassio. Othello stated, “She says enough, yet she’s a simple bawd that cannot say as much. This is a subtle whore, a closet lock and key of villainous secrets” (Shakespeare 4.2.220-224). Obviously, Othello fell for Iago’s deception of Desdemona having an affair. In addition, Othello explicitly called her a whore. The examples above are important because it shows how every woman in the play is depicted as a prostitute in some way by their significant other. Yet, the men did not have concrete evidence to prove that the women were actually whores. Altogether, the woman in the play was depicted to be whores.
The women in Othello appeared submissive to the men. Desdemona was talking to Othello about reconsidering Cassio to be his lieutenant again. As they depart from one another Desdemona stated, “Emilia, come- be as your fancies teach you whate’er you be, I am obedient” (Shakespeare 3.3.96-97). Without a doubt, Desdemona was obedient to Othello. In fact, she explicitly told him that she was obedient to him. Another example is when Othello ordered Desdemona to her room. Othello stated, “get you to bed on th’ instant. I will be returned forth with. Dismiss your attendant there. Look’t be done” (Shakespeare 4.3.7-9). Desdemona replied, “I will my lord” (Shakespeare 4.3.10). Obviously Desdemona is submissive to Othello because he ordered her around. All Desdemona ever replied with was a submissive yes and perform whatever is asked of her. Another example is when Desdemona is dying and Emilia is questioning her about what happened.Emilia asked, “O who hath done this deed?” (Shakespeare 5.2.126). Desdemona replied, “nobody, I myself farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell” (Shakespeare 5.2.127-128). This is of importance because it showed that Desdemona was submissive and obedient to Othello until her last breath. What’s more is that Desdemona did not blame Othello but herself for what had happened. Another example is when Emilia showed the same submissiveness and obedience toward Iago. After Desdemona died, everyone was in the bedroom because Emilia alerted them that Othello killed Desdemona. Iago ordered Emilia to go home immediately because he did not want Emilia to speak the truth. Emilia replied, “Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak. Tis proper I obey him but not now” (Shakespeare 5.2.201-202). This is important because it showed that Emilia has to be submissive and obey Iago. In a way it also showed that Emilia had to explain her actions of why she is not listening to Iago. The examples above are important because it shows that it was a societal norm that woman had to be submissive to their male counterpart. Women in “Othello” were submissive to the men.
In conclusion, the women in Othello are looked downward on in this dominating male society. The women are depicted as property to the men. The women are viewed as sexual objects for men to use to satisfy their sexual appetite. The women are depicted as deceiving characters in the play. Every woman in “Othello” was portrayed as a whore in some way. All the women in Othello” had to be submissive and obedient to their male counterpart. It is unclear if Shakespeare wrote this play to illuminate the times of his era or the errors of his time. It is not enough evidence to draw such a conclusion. But his work Othello is definitely one that makes oneself take closer look at gender in society.