Role of Women in Sense and Sensibility and Othello Essay
Role of Women in Sense and Sensibility and Othello
It is very interesting how different time periods can produce similar behaviors in women just like in Othello by William Shakespeare which was written in 1603 and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen in 1811. Despite the different time periods, the two texts have a connection with each other. Though set in different time periods, Sense and Sensibility and Othello placed the characters of the women in each text in roles that required them to act a certain way due to society’s norms and be dependent on men. The women in these two texts have portrayed such traits by acting depending on their class, and the way they are treated by men in their lives. Subsequently, the actions of the women characters shape the plot in both the texts.
To begin with, the way the women act around other people mostly depends on the society`s norms and act according to their class. Elinor of Sense and Sensibility accomplished much she stayed within her social status, married a rich guy with whom she is in love. “He is very far from being independent. What his mother … really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.” (Austen.6). Elinor realizes that her marriage with Edward can ruin because of his rude family, which considers social status as more important than Edward’s happiness. Since Elinor’s not of a high rank and her status is lower than Edward’s, it is understandable that his family will vehemently disagree to their wedding.
Finally, when Elinor finds out she’s getting married to Edward, she cannot hold in her emotions. When Edward tells her it was Robert who married Lucy not him and he’s here for her she’s overjoyed! “Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out … of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked anywhere, rather than at her, saw her hurry away and perhaps saw or even heard her emotion…” (Austen.348). We see that Elinor is told by Edward that it was his brother, Robert who marries Lucy Steele and that he’s here for her. Finally, Elinor is ecstatic to hear that her Edward, who has always been her love has come back which she thought would have been impossible after Edward’s engagement with Lucy.
Marianne is wild, sort of reckless and she didn’t follow society’s norms for a relationship. When she meets Willoughby, she thinks, “That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.” (Austen. 42). Marianne judge’s quickly and she thinks Willoughby is perfect for her, like she has been waiting for Willoughby. But later on we see, her misjudgement of Willoughby causes a lot of grief for her and her family. “When a young man, be he who he will, comes and makes love to a pretty girl, and promises marriage, he has no business to fly off from his word, only because he grows poor, and a richer girl is ready to have him”. (Austen.188). Ms.Jennings, says this when she finds out that Willoughby married Miss. Grey, a rich lady, for her money and to avoid poverty, he dumps Marianne for Miss.
Grey. Mrs. Jennings says that when a man promises a lady that he will marry her and loves her, he has no right to leave his word and go to another woman just because she’s rich. That’s a low thing to do. We see that because of Marianne’s misjudgment of Willoughby, she is making her family suffer with her. Then, Marianne marries her long-time admirer, Colonel Brandon, who had revealed Willoughby’s reality to Elinor which saved Marianne form less suffering. Though both Elinor and Marianne want to marry for love, their future husband should be able to support his family and marriage. The different characteristics and judgments of the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne lead to their happiness and perfect suitors for both of them. Both the sisters have to marry to stay secure financially, since women could not work back then, the women’s fate depended on the status of her husband where he stood in society or she depends on male relatives for her status.
Desdemona’s decision of marrying the moor impacted her life which made a large part of the society view her as an inferior. She states to her father defending her husband, “I do perceive here a divided duty. To you I am bound for life and education. My life and education both do learn me, How to respect you. You are the lord of duty. I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband. And so much duty as my mother showed. To you, preferring you before her father, So much I challenge that I may profess, Due to the Moor my lord.”(I.III.82-191). Brabantio doesn’t accept Desdemona’s marriage with Othello but Desdemona defends herself and her husband by saying that this is hard for me, I respect you and love you for giving me life, education since I am your daughter and you are my father.
However, just like my mother chose you over her father, I favour the moor over you since he is now my husband and to listen to him is my duty. Conversely, we see that Brabantio is very upset by the fact that Desdemona married Othello therefore deceiving her father and marring betraying her race by marrying a man not the same colour as her. Also, since she was the senator’s daughter, she was supposed to marry someone from the upper class and with high status, but instead marries a general who is the age of her father and is a different race. Therefore, being a daughter of a senator, she has to act a certain way and do what women of high class would do.
Elinor and Desdemona both marry the men they loved and they married for love and they get status and money with it. But their high priority is love and money and status are secondary. They remained within their social status. Emilia is overlooked by most of society, but personally, she has strong opinions and is an honorable person. Emilia is the servant of Desdemona, so her opinions don’t really matter since she is of low class. “Villainy, villainy, villainy! I think upon ‘t, I think I smell ‘t, Oh, villainy! I thought so then, I’ll kill myself for grief. Oh, villainy, villainy!” (V.II.202-205). Emilia says that upon finding out that Othello killed Desdemona because her husband told him Desdemona was cheating on him with Cassio.
Emilia is so distraught by the fact that poor, innocent Desdemona was killed because of a misperception; she says that she would kill herself out of grief that her mistress died due to false accusations and it was also her fault. Emilia married Iago, which raised her status since Iago was considered honorable in the eyes of the general, Othello. Emilia and Marianne are quite similar due to the fact that they judge based on what’s in front of them and their judgments cause them grief as well as everyone surrounding them. Hence, social status was a main fixation that is required to be when deciding to marry.
Subsequently, from the sixteenth to eighteenth century women are dependent on men for everything since women didn’t have the option to work so they couldn’t financially secure themselves. Elinor’s love for Edward is just like her, caring, loving and loves her dearly and he treats her more like a person than an object. “I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure.” (Austen, 20). After meeting Edward, she starts to fall in love with him due to his good qualities and the similarities between them. Edward treats her like a human being and not as an object because the way he thinks is just like her; he sacrifices his fortune to get Elinor back and gives her rights just like him.
In contrast, have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pureMarianne’s first love Willoughby is a user, he had played around with Marianne`s emotions and treats her like a object then leaves her for his own benefit.
“To avoid a comparative poverty, which her affection and her … society would have deprived of all its horrors, I have, by raising myself to affluence, lost everything that could make it a blessing.” (Austen.310). Marianne loves Willoughby with all her heart but in return Willoughby ended up deceiving her for his own benefit. He states that he did make a mistake, and he will never be happy now since he has sold his soul for fortune to Miss. Grey. He marries her to avoid poverty and to get her fortune. Due to Marianne’s misjudgments she is left to suffer not alone but with her family. Desdemona is strong and is capable of following someone’s demands if she wants too. Furthermore, Othello suppresses her and questions her loyalty, therefore we see at the end Othello smothers her power by killing her.
Desdemona betrays her father by marrying the Moor, thus it is seen Desdemona is a capable of listening to what her father says, but she is also capable of not following demands if she doesn’t want to. When Desdemona elopes with the Moor, Rodrigo tells Brabantio, “Zounds, sir, you’re robbed!” (I.I.98). Literally, Brabantio is told that he has been robbed of something. In the sixteenth century, women and men did not have equal rights thus men treat women like property. Before marriage, Desdemona is supposed to be Brabantio’s property since he is the father but now she is Othello’s property since he is her husband. Nevertheless, Othello accuses her of betraying him with false accusations and kills her; hence he kills the power in her, the potential she had inside to do what she wills.
There are similarities between Desdemona and Elinor. Othello loves and treats Desdemona with respect and gives her rights to do what she wills. It is the same with Elinor; Edward loves her more than anything else. Desdemona and Elinor both marry for love and Edward married Elinor even though she is poor and has a low status. Iago treats Emilia like a forfeit to succeed in his iniquity plans. “I am glad I have found this napkin. This was her first remembrance from the Moor, My wayward husband hath a hundred times. Wooed me to steal it, but she so loves the token, For he conjured her she should ever keep it, That she reserves it ever more about her, to kiss and talk to. I’ll ha’ the work ta’en out, And give’t Iago. What he will do with it, Heaven knows, not I. I nothing, but to please his fantasy. (III.III.294-303).
Emilia steals Desdemona’s handkerchief which was Othello’s first love token given to Desdemona, thereby the handkerchief is a symbol of Othello’s love. Emilia steals the handkerchief because Iago asks her to steal it so many times, but she does not know why he wants it so bad. When opportunity strikes, she takes the handkerchief, just to make her husband happy. Unknowingly, she had ignites the starting of misunderstandings between Othello and Desdemona leading to Desdemona’s death. Iago uses her for his benefits without making her suspicious at all and he does not really love her, since he was using her only to get what he wants.
Also, her tone in this quote, it seems that Emilia is clueless as to why Iago wants the handkerchief so badly. Iago had the power to make everyone around him see only what he wants them to see, thereby not making them suspicious of what he is doing. Iago manipulates the lost handkerchief and makes the handkerchief a symbol of Desdemona’s faith and loyalty. The handkerchief is a symbol of fidelity and Othello’s love. Even Marianne was used by Willoughby; he played around with her emotions but then to avoid poverty himself, he married another woman for her fortune. Moreover, Emilia had also been used by Iago to succeed in his plans that were targeted by jealousy. The women in these texts were used like property due to the inequality of men and women.
Consequently, the actions of the women shape the plot in both the texts. Elinor is a very important main character because her family especially her mother relies on her heavily for helping the household after her husband’s death. “To be the counselor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all.” (Austen.6). After Mr. Dashwood dies, her mother and sisters are dependent on Elinor since John refuses to help them. Elinor helped her mother a lot and her sisters too. Marianne introduces characters that provide room for learning about the character of people. “Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, … lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne’s heart; for, with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind, which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond everything else.” (Austen.48).
Marianne meets Willoughby and thinks he is the perfect man for her. If it was not for Marianne, we would not have seen how cruel and cunning people can be. Since Willoughby plays with her emotions and love and then leaves her for a woman with great fortune because Marianne is poor and is of low rank. Willoughby is an example of many men back in the eighteenth century; who wanted women with fortune and whom were not poor. Desdemona is a victim of Iago’s evil plan which causes Othello’s downfall and rips her life apart. “Therefore be merry, Cassio, For thy solicitor shall rather die, Than give thy cause away.” (III.III. 26-28). It was because of Iago that Cassio got fired. To succeed in his evil plans, he told Cassio to go speak to Desdemona, who was the general’s wife, to get his position back. Cassio had done what he had been told by Iago and he went to speak to Desdemona alone, without the presence of Othello.
Desdemona assures Cassio after talking to him that she will do anything to help get Cassio his position back, even if she has to kill herself. Desdemona tries to convince Othello many times to give Cassio his position back, in which suspicion and jealousy struck his mind which had helped Iago in his plan. If Cassio hadn’t met up with Desdemona so many times, it would have been hard for Iago to succeed in his plan since Othello trusted his wife a lot before the handkerchief went missing. Iago uses Emilia to help him in his devious plan therefore, has she not been there, Iago would not had succeeded in his plans. “O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak’st of, I found by fortune and did give my husband. For often, with a solemn earnestness-More than indeed belonged to such a trifle-He begged of me to steal it.” (V.II.238-243).
Upon finding out that Iago accuses Desdemona of cheating on Othello, she is shocked! Emilia tells Othello that she was the one who steals the handkerchief and had gave it to Iago since Iago told her many times to steal it but she was unaware of why he wants it. She is also quite an honorable person, because she disregards the consequences, and confronts Othello about murdering Desdemona. Then, when she found out it was her own husband who causes it, she revealed that she also, played a part by stealing the handkerchief. If Emilia had not stolen the handkerchief, it would have been hard for Iago to convince Othello that his wife, Desdemona, was cheating on him.
To conclude, the two texts, Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen and Othello, by William Shakespeare both put the women in both texts in roles which required them to act a certain way due to society’s norms and be dependent on men. The women showed these traits by acting depending on their class, and the way they are treated by men in their lives, thereby the actions of the women shape the plot in both the two texts. The way the women act around other people mostly depends on the society`s norms and act depending on their class.
Also, women were dependant on men for everything since women did not have the option to work so they could not financially secure themselves. Today’s society is different from the society that is portrayed in the two books. Women and men both have equal rights now in which women have the option to work and have any occupation they want. I think this is a great improvement because it enhances the equality between men and women, which allows them to incorporate a bond between them.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 July 2017
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