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November 21, 2014

Homework Help: othello paper

Posted by laura on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 4:14pm.

I was wondering if someone could proof read the begining of my paper and give me feedback...thanks!

In an attempt to warn females against falling under the control of a patriarchal society, progressive feminist Adrienne Rich defines patriarchy as “the power of the fathers: a familial-social, ideological, political system in which men-- by force, direct pressure, or through ritual, tradition, law and language, customs, etiquette, education and the division of labour-- determine what part women shall or shall not play, and in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male” (Of Woman Born, 57). Through her prose and poetry, Rich fights for societal change in an effort to advance the feminist movement and prevent females from being oppressed. Shakespeare’s Othello contains the women Rich is reaching out to, victims of a patriarchal society. Shakespeare portrays its women -- Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca -- as victims of patriarchy, living under oppressive conditions of which Adrienne Rich, a progressive feminist, would disapprove; Rich believes it is only through breaking the mold which men create that women will gain independence and respect. The impact of living in a society Rich warns against can be seen as Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca’s suppression and patriarchal way of life results in their annihilation.
In a patriarchal society, respectable women, such as Othello’s Desdemona and Emilia, are held to higher standards and obligations than men, while disreputable women, such as Othello’s Bianca, are disregarded and considered property. In Othello, Shakespeare portrays these two sides of a coin-- one where the good women (Emilia and Desdemona) are held to the highest principles, and the other where indecent women (Bianca) are disregarded as an insignificant resource, living solely for men’s benefit. In this scenario, women are required to be completely devoted and committed to men, although men are not expected to be committed to females, viewing them as a resource to be used and suppressed.
Desdemona is a classic example of a victim of a patriarchal society, being devoted to her father, Branantio, and her husband, Othello. The depth of Othello’s love for her and Desdemona’s innocence makes her the ultimate victim and allows Othello to treat her as a tangible asset to their household. Othello expresses how even he admits he loved Desdemona too much by stating, “Of one that loved not wisely but too well” (Act 5 Scene 1). Rich feels that Desdemona needs to wake up, break away from the mold men set, and become independent. She emphasizes this point in stating, “The eldest daughter in the house with no son, she who must overthrow the father, take what he taught her and use it against him,” warning Desdemona of the, “most dangerous place, the family home” (398). Desdemona has suffered the consequences of “the family home” and grew up as a sheltered domestic female performing chores and obeying her father’s every command. It is partially for this reason that she is so attracted to Othello and his stories, wanting to be near him to live vicariously through his adventures. Othello speaks of Desdemona’s struggle between her household obligation and fetish towards hearing his stories by stating, “The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads Grew beneath their shoulders. These things to hear Would Desdemona seriously incline. But still the house affairs would draw her hence, Which ever as she could with haste dispatch, She'd come again, and with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse” (Act 1 sc 3 line 146-153).
Not all the females in Othello are like Desdemona and held to the highest moral standards. The other side of the coin encompasses those women, such as Bianca, viewed as being an insignifcant resource, not worthy of being held to standards. Emilia’s occupation as a prostitute makes her the classic example of oppression in, as Rich states, “the division of labor”. Her favorite customer, Cassio, uses her by enticing her with promises of marriage, and then leaving her for extended periods of time. This is seen when Bianca questions Cassio’s commitment in stating, “ What, keep a week away? Seven days and nights? Eight score eight hours? And lovers' absent hours More tedious than the dial eight score times! Oh weary reckoning!” (act 3 scene 4). Rich would disagree at the disparity between how the ‘good’ women are judged, and the standards to which the ‘unrespectable’ women are judged. It is her belief that not only should all women should be judged by the same standards, but that these standards should be set be the women.
In addition to holding female to certain standards, males will also, in a patriarchal society, treat women in a degrading and demeaning way. These women are affected by the patriarchal system they are living under because their husbands do not respect them, show affection, and state degrading comments. Although Rich emphasizes the importance of women resisting this suppression and devising their own standards and rules to live by, all three women (Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca) accept domination, allowing men to define themselves through their perception and be other-directed.

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