The tragedy of Emilia is that as a woman she is powerless in the society in which she lives - how far do you

agree with this statement?

Throughout the play, unlike Iago who shares his every thought through soliloquies and monologues, Emilia's mind remains a mystery to the reader. She reveals herself to be cynical of men and marriage but at the same time utterly loyal to her husband and friend, however apart from these two contrasting qualities, we know little of her. Perhaps this is done because Emilia is just a minor character and Shakespeare did not wish to distract the reader away from more major characters such as Othello and Iago. However she does unwittingly play a part in Desdemona's downfall which makes her role in the play significant.

In Act 3 Scene 3, Emilia proceeds to find and steal Desdemona's Handkerchief despite knowing its sentimental values. She then remains silent, even when Desdemona morns it's loss and says she'd rather lose 'her purse full of crusadoes'. These actions appear malicious to the readers because she is obviously aware of Desdemona's pain. However, Emilia has the redeeming quality of her ignorance that saves her from being labelled a villainous conspirator like Iago. She does not know of the plans he has for the handkerchief and she comforts Desdemona when she realizes it's gone, and is always quick to speak up in her name when Desdemona is being unfairly judged or treated therefore we know Emilia does not have secret intentions of hurting Desdemona. Yet what are her motives, if not cruel? I believe the loyalty a wife has for her husband, plays a big role in the grand scheme of things. In this era woman were belittled, “you have a thing for me? It is a common thing,” sneered at and rarely treated as equals. She is an oppressed woman living in an era where females, wives, are treated like servants. This is thus the relationship she has with Iago, and so her loyalties whether she likes it or not, are to Iago first – Desdemona, her friend, second. She would reason that it is her love for Iago that

However unlike them. and does not even believe a person could be unfaithful. A strong minded woman such as herself would more likely love a man with cunning. she always knew he was not a kind man. rather than physical attractiveness. so it is . Some say that due to her intelligence Emilia should have been able to perceive it was Iago behind everything. sir? No” and refuses to leave when Iago tells her to. Therefore she should not be damned for her actions. however when she learns the truth about what he had been plotting she gives him up straight away “Hold my peace. Emilia's devotion to her husband over her friend is not unlike Desdemona's devotion to Othello over her father. Whereas someone such as Desdemona shows sincere naivety. believing Iago to be honest and intelligent like the rest of the characters in the play had thought. it is hard to find a reason why Emilia might feel she loves him. I believe throughout the play Emilia shows incredible insight compared to the other characters . Thus when her suspicion slowly grew stronger. also because she was given no reason not to trust Iago until he aroused her suspicion when he wouldn't tell her why he wanted the handkerchief. His intelligence. the individual character of Emilia began to come out also. to directly disobeying an order given. showing a huge change from when she would steal a handkerchief for him. She was merely mislead. Therefore It makes sense to put it down to a love of Iago's one redeeming quality. Because the reader knows Iago is a tragic villain who uses people for his own vices. yet she does not realize it is Iago who is doing so.compels her to do his bidding. but again that changes when she finds him to be dishonest. she shows immense surprise at hearing it was Iago who told Othello that Desdemona was false – repeatedly saying “My husband?” in her confusion. because in the final act 5 scene 2. she suggests Othello is having poisonous thoughts put into his head by someone else and is correct.for example. but the society Emilia lives in has conditioned the disposition not to question her husband into her. She silently allowed him to verbally abuse her like the obedient wife the world she lives in requires her to be.

due to her murder in act 5 scene 2. but never receives it. Othello. She exposes Iago even when he 'draws his sword and threatens' her. this gave him the calm and collected persona that was admired by his peers and is what he built his excellent reputation on. Shakespeare has shown us through Othello that . and always refers to them negatively “Their husbands faults if wives do fall” yet she shows an eagerness to please Iago and is continuously faithful to him until just before the end. She claims she would sleep with other men.understandable she would not suspect him first over any other. always spoke in blank verse. caring greatly for Desdemona and always looking for her husbands approval “What will you give me now for the same handkerchief?” She wants his love. The evidence to support this is shown by her bitter attitude towards men and how her actions contradict this. her views corrupted by Iago's harsh treatment of her. At this point. often she is referred to as a prostitute 'this is a subtle whore' However her lack of status does not prevent her from speaking up for Desdemona. Othello refers to her as 'a simple bawd that cannot say as much' when he questions her about an affair between Cassio and Desdemona. her status as a woman in society too low to be taken seriously .until the very end when it is too late as Desdemona has already been killed. poetic speech on her trust in Desdemona's fidelity. The form Emilia speaks in throughout the play is poetic. It removes all doubts of her pure nature from the readers minds. not taking anything she says into account even after a moving. exposing this loving side of her. Though how she acts would be seen as quite masculine – giving her opinions and standing up to the men was behaviour that was not seen in woman in that era. Yet although Emilia speaks similarly she is ignored. The men see Emilia in the same light as Bianca. It is his lack of warmth in response that brings forth Emilia's bitterness. before he is wrought with jealousy. therefore I believe Emilia has a softer side that reveals her to be sensitive and feminine. Yet inside she is still soft hearted. it appears Emilia is powerless to even have her words heard let alone be considered. However Emilia's voice is finally heard.

she loved thee. On the other hand. she was ready to sacrifice her life for the truth and even insults Iago “O murderous coxcomb” after he has drawn his sword. 'twill out” and the lies to be exposed for she has lived with Iago's cruelty too long. willow/Moor. and allows them to comprehend better why Othello then kills himself. However I stand by the belief her motives were driven by a need for the truth to be revealed. Oxford school Shakespeare . merely a minor character. Emilia's need for the truth may simply be Shakespeare emphasising the drama surrounding the tragedy of Othello. which Desdemona had been singing previously. Her death is tragic but it's meaning and the fact she begins to sing the Willow Song.” it summarizes the tragedy of Desdemona and also tones down the drama of Iago's deceit finally being revealed and really allows the reader to feel the thick sorrow that embodies the scene. by William Shakespeare. Emilia's actions may have been driven by her guilt “Oh God! Oh heavenly God!” because she knows her deception concerning the handkerchief was a part of the reason why her good friend died. “Willow. cruel Moor. and feels she needs to set things right so Desdemona will at least not be remembered as a “whore”. she was chaste. “'Twill out. adds a softer touch to the final scene. willow. as Emilia is after all. Bibliography •Othello.humans are capable of terrible things when they are mislead – however he then uses Emilia as a juxtaposition of the two extremes.