The Negative Impact of Gender Roles in Othello Essay

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While there have been a great number of changes in the world since Shakespeare wrote Othello, there are a few truths about humanity and society that remain true. Othello is notorious for it’s examination of race, but is not given enough credit for its observations of gender. Iago embodies masculine gender roles in a severe and exaggerated way, allowing his desire for proving his masculinity to corrupt him morally. Iago then turns and uses his own fears of inadequacy against Othello as the root of his revenge and to improve his own self-image. Desdemona is hurt most by the need for gender roles, which ultimately ends up in her death. The characters in Othello are severely harmed by the gender roles they feel the need to adhere to.
Iago uses the implications of gender roles throughout the play. He creates doubt about Othello’s masculinity, and feeds off of the anxiety these observations create. Iago is not immune to the negative impact of gender standards that cannot be fulfilled. Mark Breitenberg describes these feelings as “…male, heterosexual jealousy – the anxiety and violence engendered in men by a patriarchal economy that constructs masculine identity” and explains these anxieties are “…dependent on the coercive and symbolic regulation of women’s sexuality” (377). Iago’s hatred of Othello is due to the insecurity he feels about his own masculinity and it causes him to feel jealousy towards Othello. As Karen Newman opines, “Othello both figures monstrosity and at the same time represents the white male norms the play encodes through Iago” (153). He is as a brutish, savage monster, but these negative traits can be warped into desirable ones by means of masculine stereotypes. Othello is large, strong, and a warrior. ...

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...s entirely the tragic events portrayed in this play would not have occurred.

Works Cited

Breitenberg, Mark. "Anxious Masculinity: Sexual Jealousy in
Early Modern English." Feminist Studies 19.2 (1993): 377+. JSTOR. Feminist Studies Inc.,. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Marchitello, Howard. "Vesalius' "Fabrica" and Shakespeare's "Othello": Anatomy,
Gender and the Narrative Production of Meaning." Wayne State University Press
(1993): 529-59. Jstor. ITHAKA. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
Newman, Karen. "And Wash the Ethiop White" : Femininity and the Monstrous in
Othello." Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology. By
Elizabeth Howard and Marion F. O'Connor. New York: Routledge, 1990. 143-54.
Shakespeare, William. "Othello, The Moore of Venice." William Shakespeare:
Complete Works Illustrated. Ann Arbor, M.I.: Edwards Brothers, 2009.
1113-150. Print.

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