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.” 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.” 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.” 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” as independent females who are not pure or submissive are...
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