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Gender, Power, Authority & Violence in Shakespearean Drama - Essay Example

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Gender, Power, Authority & Violence in Shakespearean Drama

In Shakespeare’s plays we witness violence, disorder and conflict both in comedy and romance and the concept of ordered universe appears widely, since disorder is extensively used in their plots. Clashes and conflicts arise between the members of the hierarchy when those below contradict their superiors or aspire to their positions. But the important conflicts are those which are between reality and appearance; love and friendship, male and female values and love and war.
Shakespeare’s Othello, along with Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth is one of the four great tragedies, and thus a pillar of what most critics consider to be the apex of Shakespeare’s dramatic art. More than anything else that distinguishes Othello from the other tragedies is that it’s a tale of love and betrayal, secrets passion and intrigue. Iago, the villian uses Desdemona’s weakness and naiveté and succeeds in convincing Othello about the infidelity of his young and beautiful wife with his favourite lieutenant, Michael Cassio. Desdemona is almost overly virtuous, which causes her to feel that she must defend Cassio and speak in a public sphere where necessary. She is stronger than Othello believes her to be, and is not the private, withdrawn and meek woman he would ideally like her to be.
Desdemona, a young Venetian woman of high birth and good breeding marries Othello out of love. She is an ideal wife appreciated by everyone except the villain. Desdemona’s wifely loyalty and the physical abuse she withstands at the hands of her jealous and distrusting husband are issues that would have made headlines in today’s society. Her concern for Casio shows her generosity, for she will intercede for him with Othello.

We believe her when she says that she does not know what it means to be unfaithful and defends herself by saying that the word 'whore' is not in her vocabulary.

Though Othello loves his beautiful bride but does not know her that well. He is a strong leader, a great warrior, self assured in his abilities to handle military matters but he is insecure with his personal qualities. He is unsure why Desdemona chose him for a husband and could only fathom one explanation, "She loves me for the dangers I have passed." (Act 1, scene 3, 167)

Othello's sexist treatment of his faithful wife, states that Desdemona is an ideal wife and seems to fulfill even the most conservative expectations and is wise innocent and humble. (Angela Pitt, 1983). Still she has some quite serious faults as a wife, including a strong will of her own, which was evident even before she was married. This does not mean that she merits the terrible accusations flung at her by Othello, nor does she in any way deserve her death, but she is partly responsible for the tragic action of the play. Othello's behaviour and mounting jealousy are made more comprehensible if we remember what Elizabethan husbands might expect of their wives. If Othello was merely a pawn in Iago's hands, blinded by hurt and ruined by his own naivet, it can be shown that Othello allows himself to be manipulated. A suggestion of Desdemona's infidelity provides just the excuse Othello needs to show his authority and power to justify the destruction of the wife he believes cannot truly love him.

Although Desdemona's death is a result of Othello's pride and a rush of violent judgment and he may be innately a little evil but, he does little to prevent his base instincts from becoming dominant. Even though Desdemona shows ...Show more

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In Shakespeare’s plays we witness violence, disorder and conflict both in comedy and romance and the concept of ordered universe appears widely, since disorder is extensively used in their plots. …
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