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Shakespeare/Othello-Female Characters



I'm exploring the female characters in Othello and how they supported the ideological expectations of an Elizabethan society (or defied in the case of Emilia). I was wondering what your opinion was on why Shakespeare writes female characters as he did, not just as women following societal expectations, but as multifaceted characters central to the plot?

Also what is your opinion on Emilia's "feminist" speech in Act 4? Do you see it as a true feminist expression or something less ahead of its time than it is often promoted to be?

Thank you so much for your help,

Hi, Rachel,

Thanks for calling upon "Allexperts" for an opinion regarding Shakespeare's portrayal of women in society through his female characters.

Your questions are similar to those I asked of my students when I was still teaching, so I hesitate to answer if this is YOUR HOMEWORK exercise.  We at this site are not obligated to do student assignments for them.  I will provide this limited response in case I am incorrect in my suspicions.

I see two questions in your query.  

First my opinion, why Shakespeare writes female characters as he does.  Your question here partially answers itself when you say "as women following societal expectations" AND as female characters who are central to the plot.
My opinion is that Shakespeare created very REAL women, who could be helpless damsels in distress AS WELL AS strong authority figures----just as women of the Elizabethan era were-and in modern society are.  With figurehead Queen Elizabeth as the domineering governmental authority, and poor wenches and prostitutes---BOTH existed as examples for Shakespeare to bring to life with his female characters.  His portrayals of females is accurate for HIS time as well as for our more modern times.

In your second question you wonder if Emilia's lines are "appropriate" during the Elizabethan period or are statements less "ahead of their time."  Emilia's lines regarding faithfulness in marriage are, in my opinion, accurate in ALL times.  Blame for "straying" from strong marriage can fall on EITHER or BOTH of the partners.  It takes two to make it work.

I realize that I have not been specific or detailed in my response, but I leave your questions for YOUR interpretation and response as well.  What do YOU think?  That is most important.

Happy trails,



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Randy Sus


I`m a retired high school English teacher from central Wisconsin. I taught Shakespeare for years and am very familiar with his writing style, his themes, his sonnets, and most of his plays. I taught Julius Caesar, King Lear, Richard the Third, and A Midsummer Night`s Dream for years. I`ve memorized many of the lines from these plays and I know many sonnets by heart. I`d be glad to respond to questions regarding Shakespeare`s life, works, and times if anyone desired such information.


I have a master's degree in education and I take most pride in having ENJOYED teaching for over 30 years. Not everyone can honestly say that. I coached undefeated high school soccer teams for fun too. I like public relations work and have served on P.R. committees for most of my professional life. I continue to do so in retirement.

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