Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare’s Othello


Othello is a very enthusiastic tragedy playwright penned by William Shakespeare around 1603. The play has historical allusion from a short story called “A Moorish Captain”. This historical allusion was written by Cinthio, who was a renowned Italian writer and once a devotee of Boccaccio in 1565. Othello has solely based its plot and characterization on the prudence of a Moorish soldier called Othello. Hence, the play is called “Othello, the Moor of Venice”. The main characters in the play “Othello” are encased in gender roles that are key most in bringing the theme in this tragedy. The characters are Othello, a Venetian army officer; Othello’s wife called Desdemona; Othello’s army officer called Lieutenant Cassio, and a fundamental key character who is trusted by Othello called Iago. These characters correlate artistically and give forth various salient themes like racism, love, betrayal, and envy caused by differences in gender status and roles. In Othello, gender is the main antagonistic vehicle that is embraced by the main protagonist to churn the main theme in the play.

Discussion of gender

Gender relationships in the play are very antagonistic and correlating. Gender relationships should be discussed in relation to sexuality and race. Gender stratification in Othello is full of prejudice and resentment. This is real because Othello believes that black men taint white women, hence having a low profile towards Desdemona. He considers her contaminated and soiled by the black men. Moreover, there are stereotypes that bring racial segregation of the Moorish people or the Turkish nationals. William Shakespeare connects the tension created by race towards religious affiliations like Islam and Christianity. Here we can see the place of the woman in society and the masculine roles in war and family. The male egoism in Othello is seen when Othello categorizes himself as a general and a sensible man (Blake 530). This identity gives the gender specification of a profession and the stature of Moorish men. That is, the ironic stereotype behind this is when Iago persuades him to Christianity. This brings change to his hardcore heart although it is ironic. Although he dislikes the black people, when he regards them as contaminated, the writer describes him as a morally darker person than Christians. His complexion is black but his gender role as a soldier brings ethical issues about jealous his murderous character. Instead of his using his gender role to uplift the harmony in the society his role makes a great impact in the play hence conveying the tragedy effect.

How gender impacts the play

Let’s look at the integral part of the women in the play. The chastity of women is highly praised. However, Desdemona is presumptuously conceived by Othello as promiscuous. This act led to the tragic death of him and Desdemona. Desdemona and Emilia are the main women that provide a feminist struggle and gender ideas. Desdemona is virtuous and her simplicity gives her a gender role of loving her husband disrespect of his ethnic background or religion. Her meekness forces Othello to lie to Emilia that Desdemona killed herself.

The women in the play are neglected and hence given a low profile. However much they struggle to accompany men in high roles like the war they are fervently discouraged. The inferiority complex in this play hypothesizes women as inferior and hence giving them demeaning roles. This insubordination in the play highlights the social fabric that ladies and women are under their fathers or husband. And they have no right to decide otherwise. However, Desdemona epitomizes and defies the prejudice and gender roles proposed by men. She defies the dream of her father. Her father wanted her to marry a man of her race, but she chooses her own man and of a different race. Thus, Desdemona breaks loose from social ties that stole away her gender rights and roles. This instance in the play gives a very profound impact on characterization and the enlightened women roles in the society where they are neglected. We clearly see how gender is the main antagonistic vehicle that is embraced by the main protagonist to churn the main theme in the play. These bold steps made by Desdemona modeled her to be a feared character among men and hence, she could speak her mind out and decide out of her free will (Walker 87).

As a result, Desdemona becomes aware of her role as a woman. She is chaste and faithful to Othello. Her self-esteem encourages her to behave in a civilized manner hence being the proponent of the theme of love. The dramatic irony is when Iago, a die-hard ally of Othello poisons his mind. Iago twists the truthful nature of Desdemona and she is seen as a promiscuous wife. Although the audience is fully aware of her clean ways. The aspect of masculinity is evident in this explanation because Iago brings a debate that correlates with race and gender roles which is seriously jealousy. Hence, gives various ethical issues about the weakness of servants in the concept of the facade. Moreover, the most intriguing place that gender gives a fundamental tension in the play is when religious stereotypes are merged in the play. Racism, sexuality, and religion are encased together in one package, boils and brings a great impact that can be summed up as conflicting gender roles in the Moorish society. That is, the main protagonist’s ethnic background is the genie that brings racial conflicts.


The male characters have different opinions towards women. Iago is critical and envious towards women. His hatred towards Desdemona makes Othello to mistrust her and eventually killing her as an object. The promiscuous guilt is transfixed on women at a greater length than men. Othello says that women are contaminated by black men because of ethnic backgrounds. But he still regrets marrying a very faithful woman whom he kills merciless. The imagery women are stereotyped in the play demeans them to the aspects of being represented as pictures of doors. Iago defines women as foolish and infidelity creatures (Shakespeare 526). When Othello murders his wife because of presumed infidelity, ethical questions are evoked concerning racism and superior genders. There is a conflict that is brought by Othello in his change from idealization of women to beastly action against the same women. However, there are contrasting views about gender that are seen as characters build on the plot of the story. Othello is depicted as gullible because of his adoration of the male opinion. He does not want to hear the perspective from the female gender. This makes him to be manipulated easily by Iago. It is quite clear that sexual difference and racism are both correlating and culminate in the gender disparity in the play (Taylor 117). This is when women are harshly judged because they are women and Othello is also looked down upon because of his ethnicity of being black. The play is a center of racism and prejudice. Therefore, in Othello, gender is the main antagonistic vehicle that is embraced by the main protagonist to churn the main theme in the play.

Works Cited

Blake, William. “A Poison Tree.” Literature: The Human Experience. New York, NY: St. Martin’s, 1996. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Literature: The Human Experience. New York, NY: St. Martin’s, 2004. Print.

Taylor, Rattray. Sex in History. New York, NY: Harper, 1973. Print.

Walker, Marilyn. Desdemona and Desire. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 1997. Print

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Premium Papers. (2023, July 4). Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello. Retrieved from


Premium Papers. (2023, July 4). Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello.

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"Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello." Premium Papers, 4 July 2023,


Premium Papers. (2023) 'Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello'. 4 July.


Premium Papers. 2023. "Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello." July 4, 2023.

1. Premium Papers. "Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello." July 4, 2023.


Premium Papers. "Impact of Gender in the Shakespeare's Othello." July 4, 2023.