restricted access Desdemona and the Role of Women in the Antebellum North

This essay examines critical, theatrical, and popular attitudes toward Desdemona in the Northern United States during the half-century before the Civil War. It argues that the actions and purported essence of the character were embedded within cultural debates, not only concerning questions of miscegenation, but also issues surrounding the social construction of womanhood, the equality of women, and women's participation in anti-slavery societies. The Desdemona of this era is seen as both a product of changing attitudes and a participant in these debates, inasmuch as she served as an interventionary presence in political and social discourse.