Othello: Emilia’s Metamorphosis

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Othello: Emilia’s Metamorphosis In his tragic play Othello, Shakespeare endows the minor character Emilia with some important functions. Her character, which changes dramatically in several ways toward the finale of the play, is the topic of this essay. A.C. Bradley, in his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, defines the character of the ancient’s wife: Few of Shakespeare’s minor characters are more distinct than Emilia, and towards few do our feelings change so much within the course of the play. Till close to the end she frequently sets one’s tooth on edge; and at the end one is ready to worship her. She nowhere shows any sign of having a bad heart; but she is common, sometimes vulgar, in minor matters far from scrupulous, blunt in perception and feeling, and quite destitute of imagination. She let Iago take the handkerchief though she knew how much its loss would distress Desdemona; and she said nothing about it though she saw that Othello was jealous. (222) Emilia is not mentioned in the play until the initial furor of the first two scenes subsides. Brabantio’s rage, among other reasons, necessitate that Desdemona live with Iago and Emilia during the Moor’s campaign in Cyprus against the Turks. Later, while awaiting the arrival of Othello’s ship at the seaport of Cyprus, Emilia is sharing the company of her husband and Desdemona. She shows herself mentally unfit to fight off the verbal attacks of Iago, which are demeaning to her: “her tongue she oft bestows on me”; “chides with thinking”; “Bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchen / Saints in your injuries, devils being offended.” So Desdemona intervenes on Emilia’s behalf with: “O, fie upon thee, slanderer!” dir... ... middle of paper ... ... with Cassio! (5.2) Then she accuses him of causing murder: “And your reports have set the murder on.” Emilia is aware that she is violating social convention here: “’Tis proper I obey him, but not now.” This violation costs her dearly. Emilia’s stunning interrogation and conviction of her own husband as the evil mastermind behind the murder results in Iago’s killing her. She becomes a martyr for the cause of truth and justice. Quite suddenly she is transformed into a heroine of the play! WORKS CITED Bayley, John. Shakespeare and Tragedy. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1981. Bradley, A. C.. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin, 1991. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

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