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How does the play Othello represent feminism through the character Desdemona?

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lucy556 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2008 at 5:15 AM via web

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How does the play Othello represent feminism through the character Desdemona?

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted July 28, 2008 at 7:31 PM (Answer #3)

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 Feminism by definition states that there is equality among the sexes.  The fact that Desdemona and Othello are secretly married suggest to the reader that Desdemona has willingly made her own decision, at a time in history when women's opinions were of little matter.    Desdemona questions the loyalty she has for her father when positioned in the way of her lover.  In doing that she questions the relationships between men and women.   We call it challenging society.  She loves her husband, however she is caught between her circumstance...which is woman.  The play demonstates a paradox...strong woman who will stand up to her father for love...ok...strong woman who is thought capable of infidelity by her husband...not ok.  Her equality to her male counter part lies in her death.  Desdemona practices what she preaches.

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parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 28, 2008 at 11:37 PM (Answer #4)

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By marrying Othello, Desdemona defies both parental authority and the social convention of her times. There is not doubt that this is also a racial thing. Her father Brabantio laments: "O unhappy girl! - With the Moor, say'est thou? - Who would be a father?...O, she deceives me past thought!" He rants on: "O heaven! How got she out? O treason of the blood!" He then apostrophes paternity in general: "Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds By what you see them act..."

Desdemona is not satisfied just to hear tales of Othello's adventures; she wants to be a part of the scene. She accompanies Othello to his isolated military outstation, leaving behind both the comforts and security of Venitian bourgeosie. Both morally and geographically, she has indeed "got out"; she has flown the coop; she has deliberately stepped beyond the 'acceptable' perimeter for a woman of her status and breeding. 

Ironically, Desdemona pays full tribute for such 'insurrection' because she 'mellows out.' She seems to lose her original spunk and punch, as she entreats Othello to believe her rather than outright challenging him. Here Desdemona steps out of her character profile as a feminist and falls back into a more traditional role. Whereas she had stood up to her father Brabantio, her unconditional love for Othello has softened her, and she is no longer tough enough to survive in his world.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 28, 2008 at 10:23 AM (Answer #2)

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Feminism can be defined as a women's "movement" that worked to bring more rights and equal status and pay to women. Women who are feminists have strong beliefs about the rights of women and their place in society. 

To be honest, Desdemona does not represent feminism or its ideals.  She is submissive to her husband and bows to his wishes.  She does not fight him when she knows he will kill her and she allows him to do so.  Although she shows some attempts to get Othello to believe she was not unfaithful to him, these do not represent feminism in its true definition.  Desdemona really represents the typical woman during this time period...one who was subservient to her husband and who gave into and abided by his wishes. 

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