Shakespeare’s Othello clearly represents the concept of what an outsider is by comparing and contrasting the two main characters Desdemona and Iago. Through Shakespeare’s Othello the concept of being an outsider is questioning how society’s representation of an outsider is formed, why people become outsiders and the consequences of being an outsider.
An outsider is a person who is not accepted by or who is isolated from society, they are usually detached and separated from society’s normalities. An outsider can be a person who is thrust out of society through their differences or they can deliberately choose to ostracise and rebel from societies normalities.
Shakespeare represents a ‘modern’ woman of Elizabethan times through the character of Desdemona. He created a character Desdemona that made decisions that lead her to become an outsider in her community. When the audience first meets Desdemona we are drawn to the beauty and innocence of the character; “Of spirit so still and quiet, that her motion..Blush'd at herself; and she, in spite of nature, of years, of country, credit, everything.”
Her decision to fight for what she wants automatically leads her to step outside the expected role of women in the Elizabethan society and by doing so makes her an outcast in her own society. Throughout the play Desdemona as a character is represented as a possession, like most women of those times were. Othello stating, “I won her”, shows to the audience that she was seen as a victory trophy to Othello. She was not “abused and corrupted by spells and medicines as her farther would have us believe but rather wooed and did woo Othello herself.
Desdemona’s decision to position herself outside the paradigms of the expected requirements ultimately categorizes her as an outsider in her society.
“I do perceive here a divided duty/ to you I am bound for life and education/
I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband/
So much I challenge that I may progress”.
These words, which Desdemona speaks to her father before the Venetian senate, are her first of the play. Her speech shows her thoughtfulness, as she does not insist on her loyalty to Othello at the expense of respect for her father, but rather acknowledges that her duty is “divided.” Shakepeares use of “But” clearly show how Desdemona has qualified her position. She has become an outsider by defying her expected role and duties as a daughter. Because Desdemona is brave enough to stand up to her father and even partially rejects him in public, these words also establish for the audience her courage and her awareness that by doing so has automatically stepped her outside the uniformity of an expected women of those times and tore away the gender barriers of the Venetian patriarchal society.
Shakepeares final message towards the audience is made be through Desdemona’s last words. Shakepeares represents Desdemona’s decision to step outside the expectations and challenge the paradigms as one. She dies a ‘guiltless death’ as Shakespeare is challenging the audience of the time, suggesting that those who have the strength and courage to make themselves outsiders in their own society are strong enough to stand by their decisions, which is a strong threat to the paradigm of any time.
In constructing Desdemona, Shakespeare was showing to the audience the level of strength needed by women to step outside the paradigms, however ultimately he may be suggesting that society cannot allow women to challenge the expectations, and the audience of the time was not ready for women to be stepping outside of such a patriarchal society. In act 5 scene 2 Othello whilst overlooking Desdemona, states “and then put out the light”. It is through the metaphor that Shakespeare is positing to the audience and leading them to understand that women who chose to challenge the society’s expectations and become outsiders were seen…