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"The tragedy of Othello stems from men's misunderstandings of women and women's inability to protect themselves from society's conception of them".
Shakespeare's views on women and their roles in the world at this time has been highly debatable for centuries. Feminists have been especially interested in the character of Desdemona, her actions and finally, her fate, in analysing the position, roles and views of women in society and how much of the problems that face them are due to the male misunderstanding.
Women are clearly at a disadvantage in 'Othello' as they are among military men and their codes of conduct, a sphere that essentially excludes the female and emphasises traditional male chivalry. Iago points out how women's understandings of military matters are perceived: "no more than a spinster", which immediately separates the genders through lack of understanding and casts women outside the circle of power. Obviously, the military world is one which is traditionally male-dominated. However, some critics believe that the extent to which women can be viewed as inferior or 'outsiders' in 'Othello' is due to the company they keep with these military men, rather than their overall view in society in general; basically, there is a suggestion that the world of the play is intentionally exaggerated to heighten these differences by placing women in a group that is dominated by male roles. It is debatable as to why Shakespeare has done this; perhaps it is his tendency to be a dramatist, but many have also considered the fact that Shakespeare may have been using this to express underlying feminist concerns.
Power and importance in the play seems to belong solely to the men, as made clear by Iago: "You rise to play and go to bed to work," making it clear that women have no particular role in society other than a decorative or sexual function. Also, on the whole, women are portrayed as victims by Shakespeare. Desdemona, for example, is abused by four male...