Othello

Shakespeare's Construction of Desdemona as an Acceptable Feminine Woman 12th Grade

Marilyn French asserts that Shakespeare only constructs two types of women, the “virtuous subhuman or deceiving subhuman.”[1] In conjugation with the Elizabethan expectation of an “acceptable version of the feminine” woman, a woman who is passive, obedient and chaste, Shakespeare has constructed Desdemona as a “virtuous subhuman.” This supports the feminist criticism that “literary representations of women repeated familiar cultural stereotypes.”[2] Desdemona is perceived by the male characters as a nonentity, a “subhuman” tool to be used and possession to be had in the form of a wife or daughter, as male characters, according to Kate Millet, are “denigrating, exploitative and repressive in their relations with women.”[3] The role of submissive daughter and obedient wife is the role expected of an Elizabethan woman in a patriarchal society. Women who do not conform to these expectations are painted as deceiving seductresses. Shakespeare’s construction of Desdemona’s fall, Othello’s perception of Desdemona as a seductress who is no longer pure and chaste and thus kills her, coincides with the contemporary view that female independence “leads to dislike and rejection”[4] as independent females who are not pure or submissive are...

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