8 November 2018
Emilia’s Significance in Othello
In the book The Tragedy of Othello, Emilia is a prime example of someone that believes in humanistic values. She proves her nobility through her actions at the end of the play. Emilia rises up against a society that is keen on keeping her oppressed. She speaks her mind to shed light on the truth and evils of her husband. She seeks solely rational ways to resolve the problems that she creates. Although Emilia wants to earn Iago’s affection, she realizes that earning her nobility is more important, and she ends up unraveling all of his evil plans. This implies that nobility is earned through an individual’s actions and not through their financial status.
Throughout the play, Emilia’s realistic and experienced perspectives are juxtaposed with Desdemona’s innocence and guilelessness. This is particularly obvious in Act IV, Scene III when Desdemona tells Emilia that she cannot believe that there are women who would be perfidious to their husbands; Desdemona says: ” Dost thou in conscience think, tell me, Emilia, That there be women do abuse their husbands In such gross kind? ” (VI. III. 63-65). Emilia then talks about how men act in marriage and says that they aren’t loyal themselves, so why should their wives be. Emilia admits that she would commit amour should the price be right. Emilia is a key contributor to the dramatic irony in the play.
In Act IV, scene II there are two instances where Emilia imprecates the person that has caused Othello to believe that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Little does Emilia know, that it’s her husband who’s responsible for Othello’s jealousy, but the audience knows what her husband is up to and it’s ironic that she tells Othello, “If any wretch have put this in your head, Let heaven requite it with the serpent’s curse,” (IV. II. 15-16). It is even more ironic that the second time she refers to the person that has beguiled Othello because she is speaking to Iago himself; ” I will be hanged if some eternal villain, some busy and insinuating rogue…”(IV. I. 129-1310). These two occasions build on the dramatic tension that is finally released when Emilia tells the truth and exposes her husband in Act 5, scene II. But, they also show that Emilia seeks rational ways to solve problems that she encounters.
Emilia contributes greatly to the dramatic action of the play. In the rising action, she unintentionally gives her husband the very object that will seal Desdemona’s fate and give Othello the ocular proof he’s searching for to justify his belief that Desdemona has been unfaithful. There are a couple of instances where Emilia has the chance to change the tragic outcomes of Desdemona and Othello. In Act III, scene IV Desdemona asks Emilia if she knows where her handkerchief is. Emilia says, ” I know not, madam. ” (III. iv. 23). Again, later in the scene, Emilia fails to take advantage of another opportunity to thwart Iago’s plans. Emilia sees how angry Othello gets about Desdemona not being able to find the handkerchief, yet she still decides to stay quiet, and she doesn’t tell the truth until it’s too late. Instead, she says that Othello’s true colors are starting to show. “Tis not a year or two shows us a man. They are all but stomachs, and we all but food…” (III. iv. 103-104). Emilia isn’t able to see the connection between the handkerchief and Othello’s jealousy. Once again, dramatic irony is used. Emilia is naive to the information that the audience is aware of and this causes the tension in the play to rise. The audience knows why Iago wants the handkerchief and what he plans to do with it, but Emilia is ingenuous to this. If she simply told the truth about what happened with the handkerchief, this terrible tragedy would have never occurred.
Emilia earns her nobility by risking her life to expose all of her husband’s terrible crimes. In fact, she starts off by revealing the truth about the missing handkerchief and brings Iago to his inevitable downfall. “A guiltless death I die…You told an odious damned lie…I will not charm my tongue;I am bound to speak.” Desdemona tells Emilia that she lost her life for no reason. Emilia then asks Iago if he told Othello that Desdemona was false. He says he did, and orders her to go home. Emilia finally stands up to her husband and in doing so, she resolves the problem that she created. This ultimately leads her to die a guiltless death, just like her mistress. Emilia’s final words show that she has finally earned her nobility, “So come my soul to bliss, as I speak true. So speaking as I think, alas, I die.”
All in all, Emilia plays a significant role in Othello and serves many dramatic purposes. She also serves as a prime example of someone that lives their life by Humanistic ideals. Her fate is a great example of how someone could earn their nobility and she completely disproves the claim that nobility is a birthright for people in the upper class. This implies that no matter how much privilege you have, your actions will always define who you really are.