'Desdemona is a a powerless victim in Othello' to what extent do you agree?


In Othello, ,Shakespeare keeps within the time and social constraints surronding women when creating the tragic victim, Desdemona. I agree with the statement as although one may argue that Desdemona has choice and is thus powerful, this choice is always granted by men. She is also a powerless victim because she lacks a voice throughout the play. Finally, Desdemona is a passive victim of tragedy's inevitability as seen through the image of the handkerchief. 


It has been suggested that Desdemona is not a powerless victim as she has choice. However, it is clear that whenever Desdemona has choice, it is granted by men. This 'power' is not truly hers and thus she remains powerless. This is explemified in the utterance of Branbantio as he states that Desdemona's 'escape' would cause him to 'hang clogs' on other children. Clearly, it is Branbantio's choice to grant freedom to Desdemona- she is dependant on him. This can be seen through the verb 'escape' as it implies Desdemona was a powerless prisoner. One may argue that Desdemona gains power through her marriage. However, Desdemona's 'choice' is again dependant on men. 'You are my father...but here's my husband and so much duty as my mother showed to you'. Instead of gaining power, Desdemona simply swaps the men who hold power over her. She is a powerless victim from the start of the play. This continues throughout the play as Desdemona uses obedient terms of address e.g. 'my lord' contrasting to Othello's use of 'strumpet' 'whore'. These terms of address are particularly shocking to a modern audience is which women have more power. However, Desdemona's powerlessness to this abuse is shocking to both modern and Shakespearean audience's as Desdemona is clearly virtuous, often using religious references 'heaven knows...' to show this. However this again presents Desdemona as a powerless victim as she relies on men (Othello, Brabantio and God) to shape her life. 

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