Cleopatra, unlike Othello and Ophelia, is the dominating force of the play in terms of theme and also her personal presence. Novy claims that Antony and Cleopatra is the only tragedy that 'glorifies woman as actor'. Through his treatment of Cleopatra, Shakespeare provides us with a 'real' woman rather than a stereotype. Velma Richmond claims further that in Cleopatra we can find Shakespeare's 'finest embracing of the feminine'. Cleopatra through the combination of sexual and political power is a force to be reckoned with.
In the later tragedy, Othello, it can also be argued that the tragedy occurs from adherence to patriarchal rules and stereotypes. Gayle Greene summarises this position in her claim that the tragedy of Othello stems from 'men's misunderstandings of women and women's inability to protect themselves from society's conception of them'. Certainly Desdemona's very much feminised qualities of passivity, softness and obedience are no match for Othello's masculine qualities of dominance, aggression and authority. After Othello in his jealousy has struck Desdemona and spoken harshly to her, she tells Iago, 'I am a child to chiding'. Protected by a system which makes women the weaker, dependent sex, Desdemona is unequipped to deal with such aggression; she is helpless against Othello. As Dreher puts it 'following conventional patterns of behaviour for wives and daughters, these women lose their autonomy and intimacy and do not achieve adulthood'. Desdemona thus retreats into childlike behaviour to escape from reality.
Part of what makes Othello such a resonant play, even with modern audiences, is the fact that the characters and situations are so universal. Part of this universality is based on the fact that every one of the major characters is a classic archetype. For example, Iago is the classic villain—an evildoer with extraordinary manipulative powers and the ability to create chaos. Desdemona is the classic damsel in distress (despite her feminist pipe-ups, she is the unwitting victim here) and Othello….well…he fits a number of classical categorical definitions. Some have suggested that Othello is a tragic hero, like Achilles or like in a more modern sense, like Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart. He is a good man, he just is willing to be manipulated and from there, all turns to hell. For this essay, look to other works of literature for classic definitions or examples of these character types or archetypes and conclude with a statement on how this creates a timelessness about the work and makes it universally understood.
Shakespeare influenced novelists such as , , and . The American novelist 's soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in is a classic , inspired by . Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare's works. These include two operas by , and , whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the . The Swiss Romantic artist , a friend of , even translated into German. The drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular, that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature.
Free Othello Women papers, essays, and research papers.
In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "" , , and and a number of his best known . Many critics believe that Shakespeare's greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, , has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous which begins "". Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. In , the villain stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In , the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty". In , the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, , to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne until their own guilt destroys them in turn. In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, and , contain some of Shakespeare's finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic .
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Shakespeare's treatment of women in the tragedies Hamlet, Othello and Antony and Cleopatra. Was Shakespeare a feminist? Liz Lewis explores three of Shakespeare's tragedies from a feminist perspective, arguing that Ophelia, Desdemona, and in Antony and Cleopatra - Antony, were victims of patriarchal society, while in his treatment of these characters Shakespeare himself transcended the stereotypes of his time. (3,600 words)
Gradually the discourses of race studies, psychoanalysis, feminism, new historicism, and sex/gender criticism began to coalesce as scholars became increasingly alert to the interplay of sexual politics and race in Othello and in history. In 1987's "'And wash the Ethiop white': Femininity and the Monstrous in Othello," for instance, Karen Newman argued that Desdemona's love for Othello represents a direct threat to Venice because it embodies the twin dangers of freely expressed female desire and miscegenation. This take on the play was then developed by Ania Loomba who argued that "the 'central conflict' of the play . . . is neither between white and black alone, nor merely between men and women—it is both a black man and a white woman. But these two are not simply aligned against white patriarchy, since their own relationship cannot be abstracted from sexual or racial tension" ("Sexuality" 172). The work of male critics, too, integrated analysis of the play's psycho-sexual elements with historically aware discussions of its treatment of race and of gender. For example, picking up on Snow's earlier analysis of Iago's repressed sexuality and employing a similar hermeneutic of suspicion, Michael Neill's "'Unproper Beds'" (1989) finds in the play's curtained bed a potent symbol for an "unutterable" anxiety about interracial love and sex (394). Bruce Smith's pioneering work on homosexuality in early modernity also built on Snow's insights as it investigated the fraught relationship between masculine friendship and marriage in Shakespeare (Homosexual Desire 1991). Smith's reading of Othello suggests that aspects of the relationship between Iago and Othello that might be characterized in modern terms as gay, are presented in the play as assertions of masculinity, while love of women is consistently associated with the threat of effeminacy.
No Fear Shakespeare: Othello: Act 1, Scene 3
Othello has always been a popular play with acting companies and audiences, and over the centuries it has occasioned considerable and varied response among scholars. While many critics have regarded it as one of Shakespeare's most successful plays, there have been vocal detractors, both early in the play's life and more recently. The flash point of critical controversy has most often been the race and social status of its title character, but significant debates have also arisen about the play's dramatic structure, its representation of women, and the powerfully disturbing figure of Iago. The following discussion sketches in broad strokes some of the most influential literary critical approaches to Othello, including character criticism, formalism, psychoanalysis, and a range of politically inflected approaches such as feminism and new historicism.