Event Title

“The Fruits Are to Ensue”: Male Dominance and Female Desirability in William Shakespeare's Othello

Faculty Mentor

Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

DIGS 221

Start Date

20-4-2018 3:30 PM

Description

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the fierce sexual tension and anxiety, toxic masculinity and oppressed femininity, and violence as a definition for love in William Shakespeare’s Othello. A time of artistic growth, progression, and rebirth known as the Renaissance was a catalyst for male performance; and the result of this male dominance is the image of a fair-skinned, golden-haired, virginal woman willing to succumb to her husband’s desires. Similarly, jealousy in a romantic relationship was not only accepted but expected. Mark Breitenberg, author of “Anxious Masculinity: Sexual Jealousy in Early Modern England,” asserts “Renaissance treatises on jealousy, marriage, and the ‘proper’ conduct of wives often function as interpretive manuals aimed at enabling men to ‘read’ correctly the signs of women’s sexual behavior.” Othello’s aggressions emanate from his assumption that Desdemona has been sleeping with other men despite her faithfulness to Othello, perpetuating the notion that women who are sexual, married or not, must be surveilled. As portrayed in the play, Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia act as “fruit” to be consumed or “objects” to be purchased. By examining historical, feminist, gender, and queer themes in Shakespeare’s Othello, I seek to prove the damaging and violent nature of the patriarchy in relation to women’s sexual expression, and highlight the impact that the patriarchy has on the current culture. Othello and the men around him are the catalyst for repressed sexual desire and displaced aggression, and the obsession with consumption eventually consumes every character in the play.

Course Assignment

ENGL 300 – Bickford

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Apr 20th, 3:30 PM

“The Fruits Are to Ensue”: Male Dominance and Female Desirability in William Shakespeare's Othello

DIGS 221

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the fierce sexual tension and anxiety, toxic masculinity and oppressed femininity, and violence as a definition for love in William Shakespeare’s Othello. A time of artistic growth, progression, and rebirth known as the Renaissance was a catalyst for male performance; and the result of this male dominance is the image of a fair-skinned, golden-haired, virginal woman willing to succumb to her husband’s desires. Similarly, jealousy in a romantic relationship was not only accepted but expected. Mark Breitenberg, author of “Anxious Masculinity: Sexual Jealousy in Early Modern England,” asserts “Renaissance treatises on jealousy, marriage, and the ‘proper’ conduct of wives often function as interpretive manuals aimed at enabling men to ‘read’ correctly the signs of women’s sexual behavior.” Othello’s aggressions emanate from his assumption that Desdemona has been sleeping with other men despite her faithfulness to Othello, perpetuating the notion that women who are sexual, married or not, must be surveilled. As portrayed in the play, Desdemona, Bianca, and Emilia act as “fruit” to be consumed or “objects” to be purchased. By examining historical, feminist, gender, and queer themes in Shakespeare’s Othello, I seek to prove the damaging and violent nature of the patriarchy in relation to women’s sexual expression, and highlight the impact that the patriarchy has on the current culture. Othello and the men around him are the catalyst for repressed sexual desire and displaced aggression, and the obsession with consumption eventually consumes every character in the play.