There are several examples of sexism in Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. The treatment and reference to women by males in the tale is one such example.
Othello was written and staged at a time when gender inequality was the norm. The play depicts the living reality of 16th-century womanhood with great accuracy. Men treated women as tools and abused them physically and verbally in the past.
It also appears in various remarks by male characters. When Desdemona flees her father to marry Othello, Iago informs Brabantio, “You’ve been robbed.” Othello’s attitude toward Desdemona is the same: “thou art stolen.”
“Come, my dear love,
The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue;
That profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you.”
(Act 2, scene 3)
In these two phrases, we can see the view of women as something that may be acquired, won, or stolen. As a result, marriage is not regarded as a family relationship. It is seen instead as a woman’s duty to reciprocate her purchase by speaking with his wife Emilia:
“You are pictures out of doors,
Bells in your parlors, wild-cats in your kitchens,
Saints m your injuries, devils being offended,
Players in your housewifery, and housewives’ in your beds.”
(Act 2, scene 1)
“Women do everything,” Iago tells Othello. “We’ll make the most of our opportunities and we’ll be ravishing—I’m talking about you.” He continues with a summary of his wife’s circle of responsibilities: housework and sex. The pejorative words Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia are frequently used to refer to women as sexualized objects: “whores,” “wenches,” and “strumpets.”
Despite this attitude, female characters are able to stand out. Desdemona and Emilia are feminist figures who can be seen. Their friendship inspires opposition and the courage to speak the truth. Emilia makes a passionate statement about gender inequality in one of her orations:
“Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them:
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
Then let them use us well: else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.”
(Act 4, scene 3)
Emilia’s feminist spirit battles male brutality and offers hope in the face of tragedy, despite the fact that it cannot be avoided.
The audience gets a strong sense of sexism in Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Othello,’ which is derived from numerous characters in the play. Sexism is prejudice or abuse toward women.
Throughout ‘Othello,’ women are maliciously insulted and accused of all sorts of misdeeds that they didn’t commit. Only three women appear in the play, and each one is seen as either innocent, naive, stupid, or as a prostitute.
They are depicted as practically worshipping the men and readily responding to their demands. When Brabantio learns about “the Moor’s” relationship with his daughter, Desdemona – the “divine Desdemona,” the first indication of sexist behavior is evident in the play’s opening scenes when he hears about it.
In this passage, Brabantio accuses Othello of being a “filthy thief” who has stolen his daughter from him. This allegation implies that as a father, Brabantio considers himself to have complete authority over his daughter’s love life.
Additionally, when Desdemona confesses her love for “[her] husband,” Brabantio rejects her for marrying a man whom he does not approve of. Iago’s already dark and villainous personality is exacerbated by his treatment of women in the play.
In ACT TWO, Scene one, he insults his wife Emilia’s talkativeness by calling her “too talkative” and “without thinking.” He continues to do this throughout the play until he finally kills her for persisting in telling the truth.
Furthermore, Iago refers to his wife and Desdemona as “foolish women,” implying that they are disloyal for the polite act of kissing “the palm.” Iago jokes about a woman’s value openly, even if it is only in jest. Joking about a woman’s worth is acceptable; however, Iago’s words reflect mistrust in all women. Furthermore, Iago’s plan to get back at Othello was founded on the sexist belief that females are fickle and lacking in integrity.