Infidelity and Murder

June 9, 2018 General Studies

Emilia betrayed Iago by blatantly defying him in order to prove Desdemona’s innocence; while Desdemona, although always faithful, betrayed Othello through her supposed infidelity with Cassio. Since men regarded their wives as property, they had to discipline them and could resort to violence in order to teach them a lesson. Next, Ruth Vanita demotes the argument that Desdemona’s death resulted from Othello’s behavior because he felt inferior living in such a racist society.

According to her, Shakespeare contests racism in Othello by portraying the black protagonist like any other white man. Other white male protagonists such as Leontes from The Winter’s Tale share Othello’s jealousy and violence toward their wives. The fact that Othello’s intense love for Desdemona drives him to murder her after Iago convinced him of her infidelity causes the audience to empathize with him. Therefore, Othello combats racism instead of promoting it by portraying the main character similar as any other man and extracting sympathy from the audience for his lost cause.

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Although Othello and Iago had major roles in Desdemona and Emilia’s deaths, Vanita explains that Lodovico, the audience and all the male spectators who failed to intervene also took part in the two women’s murders. Lodovico personally witnessed Othello verbally and physically abuse Desdemona. The men present in the room during Emilia’s murder did nothing to stop it although Emilia clearly needed protection after exposing her husband. As silent viewers, the audience witnesses the domestic violence and cannot do anything.

Because people accepted domestic abuse, Emilia and Desdemona were doomed to die for betraying their husbands. In the article, Vanita argues that Emilia and Desdemona died similar deaths for comparable reasons; however, in all actuality they died for different deaths. Emilia’s death differs from Desdemona’s because Iago pre-mediated Desdemona’s murder, while he murdered Emilia in an effort to save himself. Ruth Vanita’s argument was well thought out as proven by her use of various exts, but her opening statement explaining how many Elizabethan and Jacobean plays culminate in the murder of an adulterous wife does not include wives who simply betray their husbands, such as Emilia. Iago had heard rumors of Emilia’s infidelity; however, he did not murder Emilia after believing those rumors as true. He only murdered Emilia after she defied him in front of a large group of men. Had a man exposed Iago as Emilia did, Iago surely would have murdered him as well in an effort to silence him. Consequently, the article’s main argument that Emilia and Desdemona died similar deaths seems too much of a stretch.

Perhaps Vanita included Emilia in her argument because she plays the only other lead female role; therefore, Vanita had to account for Emilia to strengthen her argument. Vanita overlooked a debilitating weakness in her argument when she claimed that Desdemona desperately tried to find allies, especially in Emilia. According to the article, Desdemona fights for her life to the best of her ability. Desdemona did not do so, but rather accepted her fate as shown when she exclaimed to Emilia “Mine eyes do itch, doth that bode weeping? (4. 3. 42-43) She senses a bad omen. Had Desdemona honestly tried to fight for her life using all the resources available to her, she would not have dismissed Emilia from her bedroom, or she would have run away. Willingly submitting herself to Othello, Desdemona attempts to preserve his reputation when she refuses to say he murdered her. For this reason, she accepted her death because she had no other alternatives. Barbantio disowned Desdemona; therefore, she had nowhere to turn to if she ran away.

As a result, Vanita contradicts herself when she says that Desdemona fought for her life to the best of her ability because she later writes that Desdemona had nowhere to go and could either accept her fate or run away and turn to prostitution. Although Vanita’s argument has weak points, her view that Othello’s theme does focus on racism seems accurate because of her supporting examples. Many critics say play focuses on Othello’s plight as the only black man in a racist setting. However, Vanita states that the play combats racism because Shakespeare depicts Othello like any other man convinced his wife has committed adultery.

Shakespeare wrote numerous other plays around the same time that include a jealous husband and spousal violence. Because Shakespeare writes about the murder of an adulterous wife more than once, Othello is not targeted because of his racial background. Vanita feels as if all men possess jealousy and react violently when they feel betrayed. She states that Indian women view Othello’s behavior as normal and acceptable. Therefore, since all men possess jealousy, Othello’s theme does not revolve around racism but rather human’s intrinsic faults.


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