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Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Othello

Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Othello

Othello represents a prime example of Shakespeare’s ability to develop relationships between the sexes so as to demonstrate those relationships’ weaknesses. In Othello, the sexes are divided by misconceptions and ego- centric views of the opposite gender. The men of the play, in particular Othello, maintain a patriarchal, chivalric notion of the sexes, while the women of the play yearn for more involvement in their husbands’ affairs. So it is that the thrust of the play emerges from “the opposition of attitudes, viewpoints, and sexes.” (Neely 214)

One of the critical factors in the relationship between the sexes lies in the distinct separation between them in the play. Rarely do men and women interact intimately or in person on their own behalf; “Roderigo never courts Desdemona directly, Iago never confronts Emilia about his suspicions of an affair between herself and the Moor, and Othello refuses to confront Desdemona concerning Iago’s allegations and his suspicions.” (Neely 217) Indeed, Othello and Desdemona are rarely seen together on stage alone. Much of the intimacy between the Moor and his wife tends to be alluded to, rather than enacted out-right: after answering the Venetian senators, he tells Desdemona he has little time to spend in love with her before he must leave to battle; after dismissing Cassio, he again sends Desdemona offstage to the bed; and the many names employed by Othello for his wife–“chuck,” “honey,” “sweeting”– are never clearly explained to the audience. It is not until her death scene that Desdemona and Othello spend a lengthy amount of stage time together alone.

Due to this alienation between Othello and Desdemona, as well as the other male …

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…cate creates in them the seed of tragedy.

Works Cited

“Cuckoldry.” The Norton Shakespeare Workshop. Mark Rose, ed. CD-ROM. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Greene, Gayle. “‘This That You Call Love’: Sexual and Social Tragedy in Othello.” in Shakespeare and Gender: A History. Deborah E. Baker and Ivo Kamps. New York: Verso, 1995. 47-62.

Mason, H.A. Shakespeare’s Tragedies of Love. New York: Barnes and Noble. 1970.

Neely, Carol Thomas. “Women and Men in Othello: “What should such a fool/Do with so good a woman?” In Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare’s Plays. Carol Thomas Neely. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

“Othello’s Occupation.” The Norton Shakespeare Workshop. Mark Rose, ed. CD-ROM. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Shakespeare, William. “Othello”. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton

James Joyce’s Ulysses – Balancing Information in Ithaca

James Joyce’s Ulysses – Balancing Information in Ithaca

“I hold this book [Ulysses] to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape. ” T.S. Elliot

In the midst of ‘Ithaca,’ the climactic second to last episode of Ulysses, James Joyce provides the necessary information for calculating how much excrement, in pounds, is produced annually by the entire population of Ireland (p. 718). The type of information offered is not, however, the most shocking quality of the narrative. Instead, it is the amount of information Joyce presents to the reader that comes as a shock. ‘Ithaca’ is the only episode in Ulysses which offers too much information. Other episodes offer a distinct lack of information for understanding the text’s meaning. In ‘Lestrygonians,’ for example, recognizing Bloom’s sighting of Blazes Boylan is key to understanding Bloom’s feelings. Boylan, however, is identified only by his “straw hat in sunlight,” a reference to description presented 100 pages earlier in the novel (p.p. 92, 183). The shocking wealth of information offered in ‘Ithaca’ acts as compensation for the rest of the novel’s ambiguity and difficulty. The information allows the reader to draw thematic conclusions that would not have been possible without an increase in the amount of information offered. Not all the information in ‘Ithaca’ is helpful, however. While some of the information allows important conclusions to be drawn, much of it seems trivial and out-of-place. Information like that offered regarding human excrement serves two purposes. It adds immense enjoyment to what could otherwise be a grave a serious episode. Perhaps more importantly, tri…

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…hat the reader can easily be drawn too far into the light of meaning. When too much information is presented nothing is asked of the reader. This in turn diminishes the intensity of reader experience. In ‘Ithaca,’ Joyce provides a glimpse of the perfectly balanced narrative: one which offers enough information for a comfortable understanding while leaving the space for an intense, individually-based, reading. It is only when this balance is struck, between information and the lack there of, that the reader can benefit from the softest, most revealing light.

Works Cited and Consulted

Arnold, Armin. James Joyce, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., Inc, 1971.

Gifford and Seidman. Notes for Joyce. New York: E.P. Dutton

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