Othello Literary Essay
Othello Literary Essay Although Emilia is not the protagonist of the play, her role is very important in Othello. Through her conversations with Desdemona and Iago, we develop a finer understanding of their characters. She plays as a catalyst when stealing Desdemona’s handkerchief, and exploits Iago’s villainy.
Through Emilia, we see Iago’s personality better. Iago’s sneering attitude towards his wife and women in general shows the lack of respect and low opinion he has for them. When he says “Come on, come on.
You are pictures out of doors, bells in your parlours, wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries, devils being offended, players in your housewifery, and housewives in your beds” (2. 1. 109-112) Iago is stating that Emilia is a whore who inflicts injuries on others, but puts on an appearance of innocence. In response of learning Iago’s view of women, we learn that Emilia’s cynical view of men is they “are all but stomachs, and we are all but food. They eat us hungrily, and when they are full, the belch us” (3. 4. 100-101).
By this quote, we see how Emilia perceives men to use women for their own needs and then get rid of them. She openly admits to Desdemona in act 4, scene 3, that women should be equal to men, instead of seen as possessions and objects under their control. From her close relationship with Desdemona, we learn that she is really the honest and sweet woman she known to be. This helps us know that what Iago says to Othello are lies and makes her death even more tragic. Her loveless marriage with Iago is the mirror image of Desdemona and Othello’s relationship. Therefore, it enhances the love and intimacy in their marriage.
Emilia’s major contribution in Othello is when she steals the handkerchief for her husband, Iago. When Emilia sees the handkerchief fall, she immediately picks it up, which is a major development, in not only Iago’s plot, but also the plot of the play, and says “My wayward husband hath a hundred times woo’d me to steal it” (3. 3. 292-293). This shows that even though Emilia is cynical, she still wants to please her husband. Emilia knows this was the first gift Othello had given to Desdemona and means to give it back. Emilia says she will “have the work ta’en out and give’t
Iago” (3. 3. 296-297). Meaning she would have the handkerchief copied and given the copy to Iago, despite not knowing the purpose he wants it for. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the chance to carry out her plan because Iago appears and snatches it from her. She protests “If it be not for some purpose of import, give’t me again: poor lady, she’ll run mad when she shall lack it” (3. 3. 316-318). Iago then, very rudely, tells her to keep her mouth shut and sends her away. Stealing the handkerchief is not only a dramatic moment in Othello, but a very important one, too.
If Emilia had not found this handkerchief, Iago would not have been able to devise his plan. Being that he uses the handkerchief as evidence to convince Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio by dropping the handkerchief in his chamber. Emilia is oblivious to the fact that because of her single, wrongful act towards her mistress, Desdemona, she has sent herself and many other characters in the play to their death. From the little bit of Emilia that we see – or read – in the play, she is very obedient, as a Renaissance woman should be.
But, as the play progresses, she finally shows a turn of character and becomes a strong and courageous woman. The last scene is when she is most authentically herself as she defends Desdemona, who is murdered on her bed by her husband Othello. Despite threats from Othello, she calls for help, and denounces Iago by saying “You told a lie, an odious, damned lie; upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie. She false with Cassio! Did you say with Cassio? (5. 2. 180-182) when he entered the chamber with Montano, Lodovico, Gratiano, and Cassio.
Iago continuously tells her to charm her tongue, but she will, with courage “speak as liberal as the north” (5. 2. 220). In a desperate attempt to save himself Iago commands Emilia to go home when she replies with “Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak; ’tis proper I obey him, but not now. Perchance, Iago, I will ne’er go home” (5. 2. 195-197). Othello, trying to recover himself, explains to Gratiano the handkerchief he found in Cassio’s hands. At the mention of the handkerchief, Emilia confesses “O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak’st of I found by fortune and did give my husband” (5. . 225-226). At this point, Othello knows he’s been lied to. Iago stabs Emilia and escapes. Emilia is crucial because she is the only one that sees Iago for who he truly is, and because of Emilia’s honesty and bravery, Othello knows he has committed an unlawful death. To sum up, Emilia is important because of the relationships she builds with other characters in the play, more importantly with Desdemona, which Iago exploits to use to his advantage and her unknowing help of stealing the handkerchief plays a critical role in his scheme.