Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why is it ironic that Bianca, a prostitute, is the only female who survives in Othello?

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Brutal in many ways, Shakespeare's Othello is especially ruthless in its treatment of women. By the end of the play, Desdemona and Emilia are dead, both murdered in swift succession by their respective husbands. Ironically, it is Bianca, the courtesan (another term for prostitute) and Cassio's mistress, who survives the bloodbath. This detail is ironic because, during the time at which Othello is set, Bianca is regarded as "unclean" and is relatively shunned from polite society. Emilia and Desdemona, however, are "respectable" women, and so one would assume, given their high status in society, that they would live long and prosperous lives. It is a cruel twist of fate — and an interesting social commentary — that Bianca, the shunned prostitute, is the only major female character to survive the play. It seems that, in Shakespeare's opinion, a high social status does not automatically translate to true happiness and prosperity. 

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