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Othello's Male to Female Relationships in the Elizabethan Era

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Male to female relationships is a common topic in literature. The women were known as supporting the men in their positions of higher authority and taking care of their family. Othello by Shakespeare is a great example of relationships. In the play, it shows the acts of love and hate for one another in the examples of Othello and Desdemona, Iago and Emilia, and Cassio and Bianca. The play “Othello” represents how women are treated in the Elizabethan Era. Women are treated poorly and used as objects and we learn this in these examples of love to hate relationships.

Desdemona was treated poorly by Othello. Othello accuses Desdemona of lying about Cassio and gets angry and upset when she says she really cares for him. Othello expresses his feelings by calling her “O devil, devil! If that the earth could teem with women’s tears, each drop she falls would prove a crocodile. Out of my sight.” (Shakespeare 4.1.273-276) He treats her bad because he uses physical violence by hitting her. He also yells at her and tells her to get out of his face. Othello also treats Desdemona poorly by accusing her of cheating with Cassio and he is being rude to her because he does not believe her. Desdemona is upset “His unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.” (Shakespeare 4.2.189-190) Desdemona is explaining to Emilia and Iago on how she will stay faithful and loving to Othello even though he keeps accusing her. Desdemona is so in love with Othello that she swears she would love him even if he was responsible for her death. Lastly, Othello treats Desdemona poorly by convincing himself to kill her despite his love for her because he feels as if she will cheat on him with more men. Othello doesn’t want to kill her “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul. Let me not name it to you, your chaste stars. It is the cause yet I`ll not shed her blood, nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow. Yet she must die, else she`ll betray more men…” (Shakespeare 5.2.1-7) Othello convinces himself over and over to kill her because of his reasons in his mind. Othello feels, if he can’t be with her then no other man should. Overall, Othello treated Desdemona poorly and accused her of many things.

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Emilia was used and treated poorly by Iago. Iago uses Emilia’s close friendship with Desdemona to gain access to her and steal Desdemona’s handkerchief. Emilia claims she doesn’t know “what he will do with it, heaven knows, not I. I nothing but to please his fantasy.” (Shakespeare 3.3.341-343) Emilia does not know what her husband is plotting, and she prefers not to know. She does whatever she can to make her husband happy. Iago also treats Emilia poorly by using verbal abuse towards her when he doesn’t get his way. Iago gets angry “to have a foolish wife.” (Shakespeare 3.3.348) He snapped on Emilia when he saw that she was alone and started to call her names but then when Emilia said she has the handkerchief for him he started being nice to her. Finally, Iago kills Emilia by stabbing her to death. He does this because Emilia was telling Othello the truth about the handkerchief. Iago watched “The woman falls! Sure, he hath killed his wife!” (Shakespeare 5.2.283) Othello wanted to kill Iago for lying about how Cassio had the handkerchief. Iago ruined Othello and Desdemona’s relationship. So, Iago killed Emilia at his first opportunity, because she got Iago in big trouble. Overall, Iago used and treated Emilia poorly which ended innocent lives.

Cassio treats Bianca poorly. Cassio and Bianca are an example of a physical male to female relationship. Bianca is a prostitute, so Cassio only uses her for sexual pleasure. Many people stare and “now will question Cassio of Bianca a huswife that by selling her desires buys herself bread and clothes.” (Shakespeare 4.1.110-112) Since she is a prostitute, Cassio doesn’t care about her feelings for him, since she also gives sexual pleasure to other males. Cassio makes Bianca feel worthless because he cares more about his reputation and promotions, more then he cares about her. He is always telling her to stop following him and to leave him alone when “I do attend here on the general and think it no addition, nor my wish, to have him see me womaned.” (Shakespeare 3.4.221-223) He tells Bianca to leave when he sees Othello coming because he does not want Othello to see him with a woman, especially a prostitute. He also doesn’t want Othello to know the depths of their relationship. Lastly, Cassio treats Bianca poorly by leading her on and only having their love being one sided. Bianca gets scared and expresses her feelings, “O Cassio, whence came this? This is some token from a newer friend! To the felt absence, now I feel a cause.” (Shakespeare 3.4.205-207) Cassio gave Bianca the handkerchief, not intending for it to be a present but as a way of getting rid of her. It makes her think that while Cassio was away, he was cheating on her. Overall Bianca truly love Cassio and Cassio did not feel the same way.

Male to female relationships is a common genre in literature. Women are treated poorly and used as objects and we learn this in these love to hate relationships. In the play, it showed the acts of who truly loved and who showed dislike and hate in the examples of Othello and Desdemona, Iago and Emilia, and Cassio and Bianca. The play “Othello” shows how poorly women were treated during the time period of the Elizabethan era.

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Othello’s Male to Female Relationships in the Elizabethan Era. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“Othello’s Male to Female Relationships in the Elizabethan Era.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Othello’s Male to Female Relationships in the Elizabethan Era. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].
Othello’s Male to Female Relationships in the Elizabethan Era [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Feb 3]. Available from:
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