What judgments does Iago pass on women in his conversation with Desdemona and Emilia? What is the purpose of his statements?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Othello Act II, Iago uses verbal irony to reveal his misogynistic attitude toward women:

Come on, come on; 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.


You rise to play and go to bed to work.

It is clear that Iago relishes his male reputation, as it affords him the voice to make such damning statements about women in front of women.  They cannot retaliate, only laugh it off.

The Elizabethan culture was overtly sexist, full of double standards.  Men could talk; women were to remain quiet.  Men were educated; women were not.  Men could have affairs; women were to remain virgins.  So, Iago is saying that women are deceivers: they only toy with men, pretending to be domestic housewives ("rise to play"), but really all they want it sex ("go to bed to work").

In this way, Iago characterizes these otherwise pure women as common prostitutes, even in marriage.  The irony, of course, is that Iago is the deceiver who will have these two women murdered in a bed by the play's end.