Ill-treated women - Bianca

Bianca and Roderigo

Bianca is in one way a parallel for Roderigo. Both are besotted with someone who does not adequately return their advances and neither are quick to realise when they have been fobbed off. But they remain hopeful that one day their love will be recognised and properly returned. However, whilst the audience scorns the depths to which Roderigo sinks, Bianca is a more plaintive figure. We can sympathise with her ill-usage by Cassio and Iago, although Shakespeare’s audience would be more likely to disregard her plight as she was ‘merely a prostitute’. 

Bianca by William Holman HuntThe rejected lover

Bianca first appears in Act 3 Scene 4 and clearly shows herself to be in love with Cassio by the way she rebukes him for neglecting her and being jealous because of the handkerchief he gives her. Cassio appears to be loving, excusing his lack of attention on business and promising to make it up to her. However, these are easy excuses which Bianca sadly sees through: 
CAS: Not that I love you not.
BIAN: But that you do not love me.     
In the next scene Cassio shows in his conversation with Iago that a prostitute’s customer doesn’t anticipate marriage with her and is angry and embarrassed when Iago claims Cassio is expected to do so. Iago gives a telling insight on Bianca’s predicament: 
‘tis the strumpet’s plague
To beguile many and be beguiled by one. (Act 4 Scene 1)     
Rather pathetically, Bianca recognises that Cassio has used her regarding the handkerchief, yet still offers Cassio supper. Like Emilia, she is surviving on crumbs of male attention.
Bianca’s genuine love for Cassio is seen in her genuine distress after he is attacked in Act 5 Scene 1. She rushes to his aid and tries to comfort him, even facing Iago’s cruel taunts and accusations of her part in the attack. The truth of her love for Cassio allows her to assert that, regardless of her lifestyle, she is a woman of virtue.
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