Marriage And Heterosexual Relationships In “Othello” And “Measure For Measure” English 325, Shakespeare Ii, Athabasca University English Essay

1485 words - 6 pages

Marriage and Heterosexual Relationships in “Othello” and “Measure for Measure”
Shakespeare's Othello and Measure for Measure are plays that, contrary to tradition, do not end in "happily ever after" fashion. While many a Shakespeare comedy have ended in a celebratory marriage, Othello and Measure for Measure represent different views on marriage and heterosexual relationships. Othello follows Iago's many desperate attempts at destroying Othello's relationship and career out of pure jealousy: "I hate the Moor, / And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets / 'Has done my office. I know not if 't be true, / But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, / Will do as if for surety (1.3.329-433)." In pursuit of his missed promotion, Iago orchestrates the demise of Othello, Desdemona, Claudio, and Emilia (among others) by exploiting the play's cynical take on what marriage means. Measure for Measure also focuses on marriage in a way that departs from the norm. Measure for Measure follows the Duke's and Angelo's opposing views of leadership and the role marriage and relationships plays in the characters' lives. Fornication and marriage laws are at the centre of Measure for Measure's main conflicts, making for a rather unromantic comedy. In both Othello and Measure for Measure, marriage and heterosexual relationships are treated as a way to give status to women, a way to oppress women, and the cause of many downfalls.
In Othello and Measure for Measure, marriage serves as a method to give women official status who would otherwise be regarded as merely a "prude" or "whore". Women who are unmarried but spend their time around men are considered "whores," much like Othello's Bianca. Woman who are unmarried and spend their time away from men are considered "prudes," like Measure for Measure's Isabella. During Venetian and Elizabethean times, a woman's sole occupation was meant to be marriage. "DUKE: Why, you are nothing, then, neither maid, widow, / nor wife? / LUCIO: My lord, she may be a punk, for many of them / are neither maid, widow, nor wife (5.1.203-206)." Othello's Bianca is a courtesan who is in love with Cassio but is never able to win his heart. She remains unmarried for the duration of the play and is presented as a promiscuous character with less worth than that of a married woman: "Now will I question Cassio of Bianca, / A huswife that by selling her desires / Buys herself bread and clothes. It is a creature / That dotes on Cassio—as 'tis the strumpet's plague / To beguile many and be beguiled by one. / He, when he hears of her, cannot restrain / From the excess of laughter. Here he comes (4.1.110-116)." Measure for Measure's Isabella, on the other hand, is seen as a prude until the Duke insists that she marries him. Isabella's wish was to become a nun, resulting in being seen as prudish throughout the play. She does not wish to take a husband nor does she see the value in engaging with men. Even when her brother, Cassio's life was hanging in the...

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