Representation Of The Theme Of Jealousy In Othello By William Shakespeare
Othello, a play which was premiered in 1604, was written by William Shakespeare. It is a tragedy which has jealousy as a major theme throughout all the acts. Shakespeare represents the social group of married women in Othello as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful. The author achieves this representation by creating a play in which Venetian men act upon their distrust in married women, in which the women in marriages supposedly are the ones to blame for all misery and in which married women start to question their own behaviour. The reason why Shakespeare represents married women in this manner is to create a way for Othello to become jealous. The author is hereby achieving his purpose of bringing up the theme of jealousy and the destructive powers that it entails, which are a danger for the institution of marriage.
Shakespeare’s first way of representing married women as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful is by introducing the Venetian men in Othello who act upon their distrust in married women. Midway in Othello Iago remarks the following: “Trifles light as air, Are to the jealous confirmations strong, As proofs of holy writ. This may do something.” At this moment Iago realises that Othello only needs some mere suspicion to feed his jealousy. The metaphor, “Trifles light as air”, is used to refer to the handkerchief. While only being “light as air” it will have significant consequences. It will act “as proofs of holy writ” as it will be seen as solid proof to Othello that Desdemona is cheating. In Shakespeare’s Othello the concept of women being property is also used to show that men act upon their distrust. Shakespeare’s comedy, The Merchant of Venice, shows a similar concept of women being someone’s ownership; “This house, these servants, and this same myself. Are yours, my lord’s. I give them with this ring”. In this play a woman by the name of Portia tells her soon to be husband that she, as a property, will be transferred from her father to her husband. Both Othello and The Merchant of Venice demonstrate that men want women to be their property and guard them because they distrust their wives. The conclusions drawn by Othello on the handkerchief and women being seen as property are examples of Venetian men who act upon their distrust in married women and that contributes to the representation of women as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful.
Another way the author shows that married women are represented as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful is by using the assumption that women in marriages supposedly are the ones to blame for all misery. In the third act Emilia ponders about stealing the handkerchief and states: “I am glad I have found this napkin. This was her first remembrance from the Moor. My wayward husband hath a hundred times, Wooed me to steal it.” This stream of consciousness gives the reader an insight into how Iago used Emilia’s willingness to steal the handkerchief to please her husband: “I nothing but to please his fantasy.” Iago and Othello are the true source of all misery fueled by their jealousy. However, both men accuse the women of the problems while they’re not to be held responsible. In the final scene Emilia says that husbands are usually to blame when their wives cheat on them: “The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.” Both excerpts from the play support the idea that men in Othello unrightfully blame the women for all misery. Nonetheless the assumption that women are the source of misery still contributes to the representation of women as being inherently promiscuous and unfaithful.
The play writer lastly also uses uncertainty of the married women who start to question their own behaviour, to represent married women in Othello as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful. Desdemona’s first signs of doubt about herself arise in the following scene: “Desdemona: Am I that name, Iago? Iago: What name, fair lady? Desdemona: Such as she says my lord did say I was. Emilia: He call’d her whore.’ Desdemona once being a strong and confident womaen now is asking Iago whether she is a “whore”. The author uses signs of insecurity, such as Desdemona questioning her own behaviour, to influence the reader into thinking that the women might not be as faithful as they seem. At the end of Othello Desdemona responds to Emilia asking who has harmed her with: ‘Nobody; I myself. Farewell’. Throughout the play Desdemona starts to further question herself and in the end even blames all misery on herself while actually Othello has inflicted the harm on Desdemona. If even the married women in the play start thinking that they are promiscuous or unfaithful why should the reader of the play be convinced of the opposite? These scenes from Othello show the uncertainty of the married women who start to question their own behaviour which supports the concept of the representation of married women in Othello as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful.William Shakespeare has written Othello, a play in which Venetian men act upon their distrust in married women, in which the women in marriages supposedly are the ones to blame for all misery and in which married women start to question their own behaviour.
All in all, the above mentioned elements found in the play are used by Shakespeare to represent the social group of married women in Othello as inherently promiscuous and unfaithful. The reason why Shakespeare represents married women in this manner is to give Othello a reason to be jealous. Doing so the author achieves his purpose of bringing up the theme of jealousy and the destructive powers that it entails, which are a danger for the institution of marriage. Who knows, jealousy related marriage problems might soon be dissolved by modern day’s rising equality of gender.
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