The Evolving Face of Feminism: Shakespearean Attitude Regarding Women For eons, females have been subjugated under the vice-like grip of men. Sexism has become ubiquitous and rampant in modern society, especially appearing in the form of crude humor, abuse, and sexual objectification in media. Rarely can a woman advocate for her rights without being callously saddled with titles such as “militant feminist” or “slut. However, modern humans have traveled a vast distance in reaching more harmonious levels of tolerance. Misogynist has been omnipresent in almost all cultures throughout the continuum of history.
Women have been forced to endure many unsanitary, brutal, and debasing practices, including seclusion, mutilation, and even immolation. Renaissance-era Europe is commonly thought as a period of avian-garden thinking, but the liberal gravity of this period is mitigated by many primeval misogynistic beliefs that were commonplace.
Women were oppressed socially, hymeneal, and parentally. For example, in Renaissance-era England women were considered as frail, anemic creatures that could not possibly survive without a an by their sides.
This and other obsolete perspectives were universal beliefs; absurdities became so pervading that women started acquiescing to them by acting in an unhealthy, submissive fashion. Feminists were rarely present in the Elizabethan society although there is one feminist that is oft overlooked: the great bard William Shakespeare.
Although one may not suspect this upon sifting through his works for the first time, Shakespeare crafted dynamic paradigms for the average downtrodden woman to aspire up to. He conveyed profound statements about the backwards nature of the shibboleths that were commonly held. In his tragedy Othello, Shakespeare behaves the status quo through the strong female character Emilie. His disapproval of the traditional stance is indicated by the creation vibrant, assertive heroines and male characters that are not as infallible as first portrayed.
Shakespeare possessed certain relatively progressive views regarding feminism, as evinced by his play Othello. Misogynist was rampant and pervasive in Shakespearean era; it had been the status quo since the earliest humans walked the earth. It was rife in all echelons of society; it did not discriminate based on social level. At the time, women were oppressed in all core spheres of existence: social, occupational, and cultural. Shakespeare possessed relatively feminist views for the time, especially evinced by the very presence of the resolute Emilie in the play. DRP.
Phyllis Mack, a distinguished professor of history and gender studies at Rutgers University and an author of a book correlating sociology and religion in Renaissance England, affirms that, “Gender debasing was highly present in the society of the period, bolstered by a patriarchal society still ensnared in the web of post-classical romanticism” (386). Indeed, the society of the time was preoccupied with the troubadours of the Middle Ages, who emphasized the frailty and daintiness of women. This notion more aptly applied to women of upper class; women of lower class were treated no better than household appliances (Mack 380).
Women were widely considered anemic and as liabilities. These views barred working women from the stage, as well as nearly all professions with exception given for menial domestic tasks. DRP. Jean E. Howard, a preeminent professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, simply and accurately states that “Female actresses were repudiated from Shakespearean stages” (432). She goes on to chronicle how, in 1629, a theatre troupe of female French actresses were promptly harassed off the stage at Blackbirds, London. These incidents testified to the society’s overwhelming, flagrant, and odious misogyny.
Misogynistic themes can also be discovered in religion. At the time, religion was the crux of society. Most lives revolved around the church. In the Jude-Christian annals, the figure Adam is tempted by Eve, and thus brings about the fall of man. This story assisted in promulgating the idea that women consisted entirely of vixens and seductresses. Lucas Caravan, an esteemed Renaissance painter, portrayed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in his 1528 painting Adam and Eve. Eve is rendered in a lascivious pose, with leaves scantily shielding her genitalia.
In her outstretched hand is a fruit, symbolizing fertility and the supposed “wicked” and “Siren-like” nature of the female gender. The pestilence of misogynist pervaded every facet of culture. DRP. Andy Wood, a notable social historian and author based at the University of East Anglia, states that “Men were universally considered to be dominant to women, who were supposed to require a man in order to protect them tooth physically and emotionally’ (813). Patriarchal dogma rationalized the peonage of the female gender. Women were thought to be both physically and mentally infirm compared to men.
Indeed, “looseness of tongue came to symbolize looseness of body and spirit” (McDonald 258). These views reflected the primeval state of Elizabethan society; however, the intelligentsia, including William Shakespeare, started orienting toward more enlightened axioms, and society improved greatly as a result. Modern human society still has a long way to travel in achieving acceptable levels of harmony ND tolerance involving not only females, but differing races, sexual orientations, and religions as well. With sound acumen and a great deal of time, harmony is very feasible.
Emilie was crafted as the epitome of how Shakespeare believed women should function: cognizant, self-advocate, and willing to fight for a cause, contravening the prevailing beliefs of the time. Upon reading her first lines in the play, one would not suspect she would turn out to be the plays most resilient character. She states that “l nothing but to please his (Ago) fancy’ (Ill. Iii. 308). A casual reader may construe her ramification into a robust character as flaky writing on Shakespearean part, but there is a far more complex connotation behind the transformation that concerns the audience.
Shakespeare desired for women to recognize the rather foreign fact that transformation is possible. One’s position is not eternally rooted into place, as previously thought. Shakespeare wanted to engender change through motivation. She departs from erroneous self-devaluation and submissiveness. One of the most forceful and vehement lines is delivered by Emilie: ‘Its not a year or two shows us a man. They are all but stomachs, and we all but food. To eat us hungered, and when they are full, They belch us. (Ill. Iv. 2-95) She ardently contests the exploitation of women through men. This simple message demonstrates her bravado, defying the odious chains of misogynistic societal expectations. By referring to men as “stomachs”, she insinuates that they serve only one purpose: to devour women. Utilizing the rather coarse term “belch”, Emilie cites their casual, abhorrent dismissal of women after their appetite, oft sexual, is ameliorated. As a stomach needs food to carry on, men require women to survive. This was a very radical message, especially in a performance of that period.
The sheer novelty of hearing it would have bored into many patrons’ minds, admonishing and setting forth guidance for men, and providing women the message that life is possible without a man’s hegemony and the claustrophobic manacles of social confinement. Shakespeare also used Lagos treachery to contrast with Amelia’s virtues, especially hinging on his exploitation and eventual murder of her. Presumably, these literary elements forged positive associations between feminist ideals, subliminally, n the patrons’ minds.
Yet another marker of Shakespearean relatively pro-feminist views was the divergent male attitudes toward women within the play. Male characters that Shakespeare intends for the audience to view as base or nefarious tend to harbor misogynistic outlooks. Othello makes a remarkable transfiguration from a composed, decorated general to an incoherent, disgraced swine. Early on in the play, the sane Othello states: But that I love the gentle Desman, I would not my unhooksd free condition Put into circumscription and confine For the sea’s worth. (1. 25-28) He extols Desman, and he avows her considerable power over his mental state. He states that he would have never married her if she did not dominate his heart. The quality of his words is dactylic and mellifluous; one can construe Othello is highly articulate from the exquisite rhythm of his speech. One, say a member of the audience, would be easily enthralled by such an eloquent creature. Bear in mind these words were uttered by Othello during the time when he was an eloquent, collected general – highly intelligent, adept, and skilled at diffusing a volatile tuition.
He was fawned over by the highest nobility in Venice, and Shakespeare intended for the audience to adore Othello likewise. As a result of Lagos machinations, Othello mental state is compromised due to Adhesion’s perceived infidelity. His reputation to the audience is shattered, and they begin to look upon him as a beast. He is transferred into a negative character, an antagonist alongside Ago. Along with his transformation, he begins acting savagely toward Desman. He brutally and unwarrantably strikes her and brands her a “devil” (IV. I. 188).
This monstrance Shakespearean attitude of disgust toward men who are violent to women; he insinuates only raving beasts would act in such an atrocious manner. Ago also fits such descriptions; Shakespeare makes sure the audience is acquainted with his sheer depravity from the outset of the play, when he uses shockingly offensive words such as “tipping” (l. I. 92) and spells out his noxious schemes directly to the audience. Shakespeare definitely ensures the audience despises Ago when Ago utters “Hell and night/ Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light” (l. Iii. 340-341).
He is directly invoking hell, demonstrating his sheer debauchery to the audience. Shakespeare definitely delineated the extent of Lagos treachery. Ago is arguably the plays strongest misogynist. He objectifies women sexually as an “office” to be “done” (l. Iii. 325), and he refers to their sole function is to “rise to play, and go to bed to work” (11. 1. 127). Again, Shakespeare is insinuating that only a vile beast would say such misogynistic words. Most members of the audience would have forged new subliminal associations between misogyny and treachery, whether they sought it or to.
One who harangues that Shakespeare retained the common misogynistic views that were persistently pervasive during the late Tudor/early Stuart epoch of England would naturally question the character dynamics between Michael Cassia and the where, Bianca. Cassia is considered a noble character whose strengths contrast by Lagos machinations, yet Shakespeare portrays him treating Bianca no better than filth on his shoe and lambasting her as a stupid “monkey’ (IV. I. 1 15). This is attributed more to her status as a prostitute who was even ostracizes within the female gender.
Shakespeare portrays her sympathetically though – emphasizing on how women get treated as garbage. Another form in which Shakespeare takes a relatively pro- feminist stance is the portrayal of men as not as infallible as they first appear. Ago and Othello, at first glance, seem indomitable. However, their heinous actions are cast into light by a supposedly meek Emilie, ends up toppling the supposedly invincible men. They end up meeting appropriate and shameful fates; Othello dies upon his own dagger upon learning of his horrid, misogynistic blunder, and Ago is rated off to trial and presumably tortured and disposed of.
During the process, Emilie was ruthlessly murdered by Ago. This was Shakespearean way of commenting on the persistent nature of injustice, which will regrettably never be purged from society. The Elizabethan epoch of English history was one of great change, but attitudes regarding women still remained staunchly primeval. However, change was highly conceivable, and the ideas were definitely not unerring. The shibboleths of the period were not universally held, demonstrated by the great bard William
Shakespearean relatively feminist views evinced in his pivotal tragedy Othello. Modern society has traveled an astronomical distance over the ages, but misogynist is still very rampant and overly casual. Moreover, Othello is not simply a dusty, bygone literary staple from the days of yore, toiled over by a plethora of petulant adolescent literature students; it is a brilliantly composed allegory on the nature of man, and it gives insight into the mind of a venerable genius. Shakespearean profound messages conveyed in Othello are still applicable in modern times.
Women need to advocate ore for their rights; incomes are still disparate, and sexual abuse is an everyday occurrence. Even considering how far human society has traveled in terms of tolerance toward an assortment of groups, there is still a considerable trek ahead. Modern society requires a progressive leader to orient toward progressive axioms, such as Shakespeare was to his era. The overwhelming majority of humans tend to follow instead of lead, so there needs to arise a radiant lodestar that will inaugurate an auspicious, yet highly arduous Journey toward society ultimate goal: universal harmony.
Cite this Feminism in Othello
Feminism in Othello. (2018, Feb 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/feminism-in-othello/