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Bianca in Othello: Character Analysis & Quotes Video

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  • 0:00 The Minor Character
  • 0:29 Bianca's Role
  • 1:11 The Handkerchief
  • 2:02 Bianca in Love
  • 2:47 Bianca's Final Lines
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Bishop
Although considered a minor character in 'Othello,' Bianca is the archetypal woman scorned. Her jealous outburst is the center of the play's most pivotal scene. As is the case for the other women in the play, her final scene ends in injustice.

The Minor Character

Othello only features three female characters. Desdemona, virtuous and beautiful, is the object of the hero's passion. Emilia, honest and witty, is Desdemona's lady-in-waiting. The third female character, Bianca, only appears in three scenes, but she plays a crucial role in advancing the plot. In this lesson, we will examine Bianca's role in Othello, as well as her significance among the ladies of Othello.

Bianca's Role

Bianca is described in the play as a courtesan, essentially a prostitute. Under the best of circumstances, courtesans were kept women who were financially dependent upon and socially attached to the men they served. Bianca is Cassio's love interest in Othello. Cassio is an ambitious lieutenant under Othello's command.

Cassio is affectionate towards Bianca, but she is secondary to his career. Bianca, on the other hand, is in love with Cassio. Their relationship becomes complicated when Cassio asks Bianca, who has not seen her lover for a week, to copy a handkerchief. As she considers Cassio's request, Bianca says, 'To the felt absence I now feel a cause.' She suspects that the owner of the handkerchief is Cassio's new lover.

The Handkerchief

The object of Bianca's jealousy is a handkerchief given to Desdemona by her husband Othello. Emilia, Desdemona's attendant, reluctantly turns the handkerchief over to her husband, Iago. Little does Emilia know that Iago is planning to use it to frame Cassio and Desdemona as lovers. Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio's quarters. The rest is left to fate.

In her second scene of the play, Bianca's jealousy escalates to rage, just as Iago's insinuations about a romance between Desdemona and Cassio pique Othello's jealous impulses. Bianca enters with the handkerchief that she describes as 'some minx's token' and refuses to 'take out the work' or copy it. Angry and betrayed, Bianca exits hastily, but not before her outburst convinces Othello that his wife and Cassio are lovers, making Bianca's outburst a pivotal moment in the plot.

Bianca in Love

There is little to suggest that Bianca is not really in love with Cassio, but her situation would necessitate an attachment to any man of position and means. It is possible Bianca fears losing Cassio would render her without any other means of survival. As a minor character, however, Bianca does not have a soliloquy or a revealing confidence with another character so that we may fully understand her motivations.

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