The Character of Emilia in Othello
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The Character of Emilia in Othello
The definition of Renaissance women is fundamentally important in William Shakespeare's play Othello. One of the major causes of Othello's tragedy is his belief that Desdemona is not chaste. According to the men of the Renaissance, chastity, silence, and obedience are three attributes that define Renaissance women. Although Othello takes place during the Renaissance, the women in the play, Bianca, Desdemona and Emilia, defy traditional norms by lacking at least one of the major attributes defining women; Bianca's lack of chastity is clearly displayed when she unlawfully sleeps with Cassio; Desdemona's lack of silence is clearly displayed when she constantly urges Othello to give Cassio's position back. However, in the last two acts, Emilia displays the strongest challenge to the definition of Renaissance women as silent, chaste, and obedient, mainly to defend Desdemona.
First, in order to defend Desdemona's chastity, Emilia challenges the societal norm of silence. Recall the incident when Othello calls Desdemona a "whore" for cheating. In response, Emilia protests loudly against Othello and attempts to disprove his belief that Desdemona is not chaste: "A halter pardon him [Othello]! And hell gnaw his bones! / Why should he call her [Desdemona] whore? (4.2. 143,144). Instead of Emilia conforming to the attribute of Renaissance women as silent, she condemns Othello for his false accusations against her mistress, Desdemona. Later in the play, after finding Desdemona killed, Emilia challenges silence again: "As ignorant as dirt! Thou hast done a deed-... / The Moor hath killed my mistress!" (5.2. 171,174). Although Othello tells Emilia that it would be "best" for her to remain silent, she ignores his request and ridicules him for killing "sweet" Desdemona (5.2. 169).
Secondly, Emilia mentally challenges the social norm of chastity by condoning women that deceive their husbands. Although Emilia does not explicitly state whether she has ever cheated, she does say that she would not cheat for small, material wealth, but any woman would cheat in order to make her husband king: "Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? (4.3. 77). Furthermore, Emilia explains that the reason women cheat is because their husbands "slack their duties" and "break out into peevish jealousies (4.3. 87, 89). In essence, Emilia accepts the "abuse" of men by women because she feels that it is the husband's flaws that evoke the women to cheat.
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Emilia Othello Play Othello Desdemona Bianca Cassio Accusations Norm Pardon Moor
Finally, Emilia challenges obedience when she disobeys Iago in order to defend Desdemona. After Desdemona is killed, Othello speaks of Desdemona's unfaithfulness and of the symbolic handkerchief that she supposedly gave to Cassio: "With that recognizance and pledge of love / which I first gave her. I saw it in his hand (5.2. 221,222). Emilia responds by saying:
O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak'st of
I found by fortune and did give my husband;
For often, with a solemn earnestness,
More than indeed belonged to such a trifle,
He begged of me to steal 't. (5.2. 232-236)
Against Iago's wishes, Emilia tells Othello that Iago asked her to steal the handkerchief. As a result of disobeying Iago in order to defend Desdemona, Emilia is killed.
Although Emilia lacks the attributes that define Renaissance women, she clearly displays the characteristics of a strong-minded individual. Instead of conforming with social norms, Emilia follows her beliefs that Desdemona is chaste and that some women are not chaste because their husbands cause them to "fall." Emilia may not have been considered a woman during the Renaissance; however, today, many people admire a woman that exemplifies the strength and courage of Emilia.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 6th ed. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 1153-1255.
The Importance Of Emilia In Shakespeare's Othello
The Importance of Emilia in Shakespeare's Othello
In Othello the Moor, Shakespeare combines destiny with a fatal character flaw and that flaw is jealousy. Shakespeare's tragedy allows one character to hold the key to the entire web he has spun and that character is Emilia. Emilia is the lone character who garners the knowledge to all circumstances of the events surrounding the characters in Othello the Moor. Although other characters in the play are privy to certain details of the unfolding events, Emilia is the character that uses this knowledge to the benefit of the play. Emilia's character is minor yet necessary. Without her character the play would have no means of unraveling the confusion created by the author. Emilia, wife of Iago, should be questioned of her loyalty and commitment to both her husband and her dear friend, Desdemona.
The character of Emilia has only eight short parts in the play and of those parts only two are with the lead character of Othello. Her character only interacts with Iago and Desdemona. The first encounter between Othello and Emilia is in Act IV, Scene II. Emilia assures Othello of Desdemona's true love and faithful manner. Othello questioned Emilia "You have seen nothing, then?" "Nor ever heard, nor ever did suspect." (Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene II, page 1107) replied Emilia. Emilia is telling the truth. She knows for a fact that Desdemona has been faithful to her husband and that she loves him wholly. But in Shakespeare's style of character development; Emilia is playing coy to the fact that her husband has lead Othello to believe differently. Emilia is now the only character to have direct interaction with Othello, Desdemona and her husband and be knowledgeable of her husband's scheme.
The design of the play Othello the Moor is intricate and at times hard to follow but the author has a point to make and this becomes clear at the end of the play. Shakespeare's point in Othello the Moor is that each individual has a destiny and fate is central in the lives of his characters. Othello, a great warrior, is the lead character and the target for attack from a disgruntled soldier, Iago. Iago plots with the aide of his wife, Emilia, to plant subtle notions of jealously in the case of Othello's expedient marriage to Desdemona. Othello loves Desdemona and the same is true for Othello, but Iago successfully destroys the trust between the couple with a scheme in which Othello is unable to control his jealousy. There are several other characters that Iago uses to set his plan into motion such as Roderigo, Bianca and Cassio. Cassio is not so much a willing participant in the scheme of the play as he is a scapegoat (or object of irrational hostility; Webster's Dictionary, 652) to pin the entire plot on. It is known that Emilia's character becomes crucial to the plot, as she is the most essential character to her husband's crusade to destroy Othello and Desdemona.
Iago is angered at...
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