Essay on Feminism in Sophocles' Antigone and Shakespeare's Othello

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Feminism in Antigone and Othello

Feminism has been one of the most important forces in shaping our modern-day society. Thanks to the women's rights movement, females today enjoy rights and freedoms that are unprecedented in the history of Western civilization. However, it was not always this way. Whereas modern literature that contains feminist messages barely gets a second thought, readers in our time are intrigued and impressed by feminist works coming from a decidedly male-biased past. Two of the greatest works of Western literature, Antigone and Othello, written by the two great dramatists Sophocles and Shakespeare, have been said to illustrate feminist ideals in the "distant" past. Antigone, which embodies these
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In former times, such as those in which Antigone and Othello are set, women played a decidedly secondary role in Western society. For example, in ancient Athens, otherwise a paragon of ancient democracy, only free men could vote. No slaves, and certainly no women. Females are also notably absent from the history of many intellectual fields, such as science and mathematics, because they were prevented from getting an education. Female children would even be thrown out at birth, a practice that continues today in countries such as China, where boys were (and still are) perceived to be more valuable.

And it gets worse. In some cases, women were treated as second-class human beings; in others, they were treated as property. To the Elizabethan father, his daughter's virginity was important because it would command a higher price for her as a bride. This view of women is exemplified by Brabantio's view of Desdemona in Othello. The other useful purpose for women, from the male point of view, was sexual pleasure. This sort of female is embodied in Othello by Bianca.

Desdemona is only considered as an object by the men in Othello. This peculiar view of women prevalent at the time is best illustrated in Othello's speech as he prepares to kill Desdemona:

It is the cause, it is

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