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Tough Love in William Shakespeare’s play, Othello

In William Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello, Desdemona asserts, “‘wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?’” (4.3.76). During a friendly banter, Desdemona asks Emilia this very question; would she cheat on her husband to help him become monarch and have power over all the world? She quietly replies that she would only in secret, but only for her husband’s own good. This question plays an essential role throughout Othello because Emilia is first accused of cheating on her husband. Additionally, she is obsequious towards Iago because of her female role and responsibility as a wife. As a result of being so obedient, she later steals the highly valued handkerchief because her husband desired it. Shakespeare utilizes Emilia to portray his negative position on marriage and the modest duty of a wife in bed, and nothing more; while developing the submissive character of Desdemona. The foil of Emilia and Desdemona, as a result of their opposing views on marriage and physiognomies of women, helps Shakespeare portray his message of women and marriage.

Emilia and Iago’s position on marriage can frequently be uncovered though their reflections on both men and women. Iago first introduces Emilia as a whore and cheater, which foreshadows the later tragic dénouement because he later accuses Desdemona of being a whore resulting in her death. Iago testified, “‘you rise to play and go to bed to work’” (2.1.3). He is revealing that she has no greater purpose than going to bed with him, or other men; carrying out the sole reason women were created. Her husband, the person who vowed to be with her the rest of her life, talks to her like she is not worth anything. Along with the Renaissance time periods beliefs, Iago displays inadequate ho...

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Although a minor character in William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello, Emilia exists as a vital component to revealing his views on women being obsequious to their husbands and his negative connotation on marriage. Emilia’s decision to remain silent drives the play and in the end causes it to turn tragic with multiple deaths. Desdemona and Emilia can be perceived as a foil to each other because of their different beliefs for women’s roles in marriage. Her obedience toward her husband causes her to steal the handkerchief and give it to Iago, so he can falsely set Cassio up with it. Without Emilia, Shakespeare could not have exposed his view on women’s roles and marriage, and the storyline for his tragic play Othello could not have been achieved.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Delaware: Prestwick House, Inc., 2005. Print
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