Home > Free Essays > Literature > Comparative Literature > Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles

Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Nov 12th, 2021

Othello, The moor of Venice was a play written by William Shakespeare and has contributed to his reputation as a great poet. Oedipus, was a play written by Sophocles and has secured great audience. There is similarity in both plays on how women are treated in the society. The essay will focus in outlining the different treatments accorded to the women as outlined by Shakespeare and Sophocles.

In both plays women are highly controlled by men in the society. Women are not accorded the right of making their own decisions. In Othello, Roderigo beliefs that he should be the one to marry Desdemona no matter what happens. Roderigo and Lago accuse Othello falsely and tell Brabanzio that he has stolen his daughter, Desdemona using witchcraft.

‘Transported, with no worse nor better guard, but with a knave of common hire, a gondolier, Shakespeare 7.’ Further, Brabanzio attempts to control his daughter’s life by accusing Othello to the senate. Consequently, Desdemona confesses that since she is married to Othello, she is submissive to him. ‘So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord, Shakespeare 11.’ Lago controls Desdemona successfully and implicates her as having an affair with Cassio. Lago controls Emilia and lures her to commit crime. Emilia is submissive and obeys her husband’s order of stealing Desdemona’s handkerchief. Further, Lago attempts to silence Emilia in the end of the play after she realizes what he has done.

In Oedipus, Creon kidnaps Antigone and Ismene since he is unsuccessful in abducting Oedipus. The kidnap shows how easily women are controlled by men. Further, Creon refuses to listen to explanation given by Antigone after she buries his brother. ‘No woman’s going to govern me no, no—not while I’m still alive, Sophocles 4’

Women are accused falsely and tortured in both plays. In Othello, Lago accuses Desdemona of having an affair with Cassio. ‘O, beware, my lord, of jealousy, Shakespeare 23.’ Further, Othello accuses Desdemona of being a prostitute. Othello kills Desdemona because he thinks that she is unfaithful.

Lago kills Emilia because she tells the truth and attempts to escape. In Oedipus, Creon sentence Antigone and Ismene to death simply because they have given their brother a proper burial. Despite the fact that he forgives Ismene, he orders that Antigone should be buried alive.

Creon attempts to kill Antigone when Haemon fails to support his judgment. ‘No, not when I see you making a mistake and being unjust, Sophocles 7’ After the advice given by the blind prophet, Creon is reluctant to free Antigone. Antigone hangs herself because she is imprisoned and maltreated by Creon.

In both plays the views of women are disregard. In Othello, the views of Desdemona being in love with Othello are only taken seriously after the judgment is given by the senate. ‘Adieu, brave Moor, use Desdemona well, Shakespeare 18.’ Othello disregards the views given by Desdemona on reinstating Cassio to his position. As a matter of fact, he interprets the views presented by Desdemona as being due to an affair with Cassio.

Othello disregards the explanation that Desdemona has in regard to the accusation of being unfaithful and kills her. ‘She’s, like a liar, gone to burning hell, Shakespeare 28.’ After Othello killed Desdemona, he believed more in Lago who was lying than Emilia who was telling the truth. In Oedipus, Creon disregards the explanation given by Antigone after she buries her brother. ‘Tell me with no lengthy speech, Sophocles 6.’

The body of Antigone’s brother is exhumed which shows that her actions were disregarded by Creon. Oedipus fails to yield to Antigone’s plea of accepting his brother’s request. Oedipus refuses to be comforted by Jocasta which can be interpreted as disregard. ‘Listen to me I beg you, do not do this thing, Sophocles 18.’ Eurydice curses her husband and kills herself for the disaster that his pride has brought to the land. Eurydice had always warned Creon about his stubbornness and pride but he never yielded.


Theme of tragedy is well featured in both plays. Oedipus starts with a flashback of tragedy. Polynices and Eteocles are children of Oedipus who fight and end up killing each other. Creon orders that Polynices’s body should not be buried. Antigone buries the body secretly and is sentenced to death along with her sister Ismene.

Afterwards Creon orders for release of Ismene but Antigone is to be buried alive in a tomb. The blind prophet however warns Creon against this act as it will bring calamity to the land. ‘How good advice is valuable—worth more than all possessions, Sophocles 9.’

Haemon is the first person who arrives at the tomb where Antigone is imprisoned. He finds out that Antigone has committed suicide and is devastated. Upon arrival of his father Creon, Haemon throws a sword but misses him. Haemon kills himself after he fails to kill his father. After Eurydice learns that his son is dead she is devastated and stabs herself as well. Creon is not able to withstand the many tragedies and begs for his own death. ‘I don’t know where to look or find support, Sophocles 11.’

The plague in the land is associated with murder of king Laius that took place long time ago. The remedy of the plague is based on expulsion of the murderer of King Laius from the land. His murderer happens to be his own son King Oedipus who was raised in Corinth.

His mother had sent a shepherd to kill him when he was a baby because it had been prophesied that the baby would kill his father and sleep with his mother. The shepherd opted to take the baby far away from Thebes but what had been prophesied was fulfilled since Oedipus killed his father and slept with his own mother. When Jocasta realizes that Oedipus was his son whom he has lived with as her husband she kills herself.

Oedipus stabs out his eyes and orders Creon to take care of his daughters since he should be sent to exile. ‘Take care of them, Creon; do this for me, Sophocles 19.’ Oedipus dies in Athens and the city in which he is buried is safe from calamities. Creon is the main antagonist in the play as he betrays King Oedipus.

His betrayal leads to many tragic events including death of his entire family. ‘Cruel mistakes that bring on death, Sophocles 10.’ The calamity in the land is associated with tragic murder of King Laius. Both plays have featured the theme of Tragedy as evidenced by the death of main protagonists in both plays.

In Othello, Desdemona is killed by her husband Othello because Lago makes him think that she is cheating on him. ‘O, falsely, falsely murdered! Shakespeare 30’ Roderigo plans to kill Cassio so as to prevent Othello from leaving with Desdemona since she loves her. Lago orders Roderigo to ambush and kill Cassio but instead Roderigo is wounded.

‘Here, at thy hand: be bold, and take thy stand, Shakespeare 32.’ Lago attempts to kill Cassio but only succeeds in wounding him. Lago pretends and accuses Roderigo of the attempted murder on Cassio and kills him. ‘O murderous slave! O villain! Shakespeare 33’ Lago kills Emilia after she told the truth and attempts to run away.

Lago is seized by Lodovico and Graziano. Othello wounds Lago because of his betrayal. Othello talks of how he would like to be remembered and kills himself. Lodovico gives Othello’s property to Graziano and orders for execution of Lago. ‘Graziano, keep the house, and seize upon the fortunes of the Moor, Shakespeare 36.’ Lago is the main antagonist who is the cause of tragedy.

He designs a plot to separate Desdemona and Othello which succeeds. However, the separation of Othello and Desdemona is associated with so many tragic events.

Fairness and justice

The theme of fairness is well featured by Shakespeare and Sophocles in their works. In Othello, Roderigo and Lago feign to search for justice by telling Brabanzio that Othello has stolen Desdemona using witchcraft. Brabanzio and Roderigo accuse Othello to the senate demanding him to release Desdemona.

The senate rules fairly that Desdemona should be allowed to stay with Othello since she loves him. Cassio persuades Desdemona to plead with his husband on his behalf for him to be reinstated in his position. ‘Madam, my former suit: I do beseech you, Shakespeare 23’ The ill plot by Roderigo of separating Desdemona and Othello is accorded justice by the rule made by the senate. Roderigo’s attempt to kill Cassio is fruitless and is avenged by his death.

When Cassio wounds Roderigo Lago intervenes and wounds him as well. Emilia pays for her mistakes of stealing Desdemona’s handkerchief with her life. Cassio is demoted for engaging in a fight and killing Brabanzio when he was drunk. Desdemona tries to plead with Othello to reinstate Cassio to his position to ensure justice and fairness.

‘Pray you, let Cassio be received again, Shakespeare 25.’ Further, Desdemona tries to explain to Othello that she is not involved in an affair with Cassio so that he could treat her fairly by not killing her. Othello kills Desdemona and tells Emilia that she has paid for being unfaithful to him with her life.

Emilia tells the truth as a way of ensuring fairness. Lodovico and Graziano attempt to take Othello for trial because of killing Desdemona to ensure justice. ‘To the Venetian state, come, bring him away, Shakespeare 37.’ Othello pays for killing Desdemona with his life. ‘Killing myself, to die upon a kiss, Shakespeare 39.’ Lago is sentenced to death for his crimes and all the tragedy he has caused. Cassio was appointed to replace Othello as a way of justice since he had lost his position unfairly.

In Oedipus, Antigone buries her brother as an act of being fair and respectful to him. Haemon refuses to side with injustice of his father by saying that Antigone should not be killed. ‘You’ll not catch me giving way to some disgrace, Sophocles 7.’

The blind prophet warns Creon of the impending disaster if Antigone is not freed from the tomb. Creon pays for all his crimes and unfairness by losing his entire family. The parents of Oedipus opted to kill their baby so as to prevent the injustice that had been prophesied concerning him.

The shepherd who was told to kill baby Oedipus preferred taking him to another place rather than killing him. ‘I was told to get rid of it, Sophocles 18.’ The shepherd thought that his actions could be the only way to be fair to Oedipus and his parents. The blind prophet says that the murderer of King Laius is supposed to be expelled from the land as a remedy for the calamity that has stricken the land.

When Oedipus learnt that he was the killer of his father he told Creon to send him to exile so as to pay for his sins. ‘Send me away from Thebes, Sophocles 19.’ Jocasta pays for the attempt to kill her baby with her life. Oedipus failed to support either of his sons because they did not support him when he was sent to exile.

‘Each of you suffers himself alone, Sophocles 16.’ Antigone tries to persuade his father to be lenient and fair with his sons. Athens is accorded the privilege of safety because the president helps Oedipus when he is in exile. Creon attempts to abduct Oedipus because he believes that he should be buried in Thebes for them to enjoy benefits of safety from calamities.

This essay on Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal
Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2021, November 12). Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles. https://ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/


IvyPanda. (2021, November 12). Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/

Work Cited

"Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles." IvyPanda, 12 Nov. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/.

1. IvyPanda. "Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles." November 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/.


IvyPanda. "Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles." November 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles." November 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/treatment-of-women-by-shakespeare-and-sophocles/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Treatment of women by Shakespeare and Sophocles'. 12 November.

Powered by CiteTotal, free citation creator
More related papers