Othello- Emilia, Desdemona Relationship Essay
In the play “Othello”, by William Shakespeare, there are two major feminine figures that attract our attention - Othello- Emilia, Desdemona Relationship Essay introduction. One is the wife of the play’s tragic hero-Othello; the other is betrothed to one of the greatest villains of all time-Iago. They are part and parcel of what goes on in the play and eventually how the crisis of the play is resolved. These two females of the play can be compared and contrasted in a number of ways. To begin, both Desdemona and Emilia are the wives of men of action. Their husbands are in the Venetian military and not just ordinary men but men who hold positions and value. Desdemona is the wife of Othello who is a General in the army with men under his command. Emilia’s husband is Iago who is the ancient of Othello. Next, the two ladies exhibit a level of ignorance of the plots in play around them. Unknowingly both Desdemona and Emilia play right into Iago’s master plan of destruction. Desdemona and Emilia are also loyal wives who want to please their husbands. Othello believes that Desdemona is lewd and unchaste; therefore Desdemona wants to appease his worries concerning her loyalty by reassuring him, thus pleasing him. Desdemona affirms: “I never did Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio But with such general warranty of heaven As I might love. I never gave him token.”
She is veracious in saying that she has not cheated on Othello with Cassio, therefore proving to him that she is loyal. Similarly, Emilia is just as loyal to Iago as Desdemona is to Othello. When Emilia finds Desdemona’s handkerchief she remembers that her husband had asked her to give it to him. “I am glad I have found this napkin My wayward husband hath a hundred times Wooed me to steal it I nothing, but to please his fantasy.”
For that reason, instead of giving it back to her mistress right away, Emilia gave it to Iago with the goal in mind of pleasing him. Emilia’s actions thus reinforce her loyalty to Iago. Emilia and Desdemona do differ in perspective. The major contrast of the two women’s attitude towards men and marriage come is highlighted when they discuss adultery. In this respect, we can see Emilia as a modern woman, a feminist before her time. Desdemona can be perceived as being old fashioned and idealistic who is votary at the shrine of love. Emilia’s opinion about men is expressed in the following lines:
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They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
They eat us hungrily, and when they are full,
They belch us.
Emilia and Desdemona’s view on faithless wives differ as well. To Desdemona, unchaste is unthinkable. But Emilia knows there are faithless wives and she feels that she can explain why some wives fail in chastity. Emilia expresses her belief in equality. Her worldliness becomes evident as she says she may be willing to transgress the bounds of virtue, if the whole world is offered as a price. Her ultimate conclusion on such contradictory ideals is that the bad behavior of a woman is only a reflection of her husband’s behavior. The difference in their use of language indicates the disparities between the women’s characters. Desdemona’s speech is gentle, courteous and refined. When Othello abuses her faithlessness, she is unable to argue or expostulate with him. Even in the face of death, Desdemona’s language remains spiritual: “No, by my life and soul!” Emilia has a rough and ready tongue. She uses her language to defy the fear of death: “I care not for thy sword;” As Emilia’s anger raises her language becomes direct and coarse: “He called her a whore;” Emilia feels no embarrassment in pronouncing the word ‘whore’ which Desdemona shrinks from uttering.
The view of both women to their husbands takes different paths at the end of the play. Desdemona continues to love her husband even though he has fatally smothered her. Desdemona acts saintly blaming her death on herself: “Nobody; I myself; Farewell:” She does not alter her love even in the face of irrational passion. In this way, Desdemona exemplifies romantic love. Emilia was loyal and devoted to her husband. At the shocking discovery of the truth, Emilia’s view of her husband is shattered. Her realisation is made worse because of the part she took in it. She is a symbol of justice as she puts her mistress’s good name before her own. Emilia is heroic in the face of death as she passes judgment on her husband: “may his pernicious soul/ Rot half a grain a day!” The greatest similarity between Desdemona and Emilia is that their husbands murdered them both. Their downfall was undoubtedly their love and faith in their husbands and their trust of Iago. Both women’s good qualities were used against them and led to their murder; Desdemona’s generosity and compassion and Emilia’s sense of justice and devotion.