The Contrasting Themes of Love and Infidelity in Othello, a Play by William Shakespeare

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Shakespeare’s infamous literary work Othello revolves around contrasting themes of love and infidelity. Emilia absolutely adores lago, and she desires nothing more than to please her husband. lago constantly mocks and degrades her, solely using Emilia for nothing more than his own ambitions. Despite this, Emilia goes as far as to betray her dearest Desdemona by stealing her handkerchief, desperately hoping to satisfy her husband. lago dismisses her attempt, and Emilia is left with feelings of animosity. Her monologue showcases her inner bitterness and spite towards her husband, which shine through her seemingly undying devotion.

From the start of her monologue, Emilia explodes in anger towards lago. Stating in line 3, “But I do think it is their husband’s faults if wives fall,” she attempts to place blame on her own husband. Her fury rises as she realizes it is not her fault she cannot please lago. The reader senses her resentment surfacing as she wishes she could take revenge on lago and somehow force him to love her. Emilia adds on, “Why, we have some galls, and though we have some grace, yet have we some revenge.” During Shakespeare’s time, women were seen as both prizes to be won and deceivers of men. Emilia equivocates men to women in her monologue, arguing out of anger that women can be just as cunning. Shakespeare depicts Emilia to be utterly submissive to her abusive husband, so the reader is shocked by Emilia’s position, that women are equal to men in the way that they can both commit adultery.

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Shakespeare’s diction and use of rhetorical devices further highlight Emilia’s hatred. The use of enjambment in lines 3-4 shows how she wishes to distance herself from lago, who she previously wished to be close to. The words “husband” and “wife” never appear on the same line, showing how Emilia’s marriage to lago is not a united one, where both the husband and wife benefit equally. Lines 15-17 are an example of parallelism, which emphasize Emilia’s unsure thoughts. Beginning her rhetorical questions with “I think it,” Emilia ponders the causes of infidelity, concluding that it is perhaps due to both affection and weakness of men. However, she declares that women can harbor these cravings for “sport” and “affection” just as men do. Rage prompts her to believe that infidelity should be combatted with infidelity, as women can behave just as men do.

Desdemona’s response to Emilia’s monologue emphasize Emilia’s newfound bitterness to lago. Declaring “Heaven me such uses send,” Desdemona vows to learn from Emilia and to never follow her example. Seeing Emilia’s views as completely absurd, Desdemona prompts the reader to question her monologue. Is Emilia justified in her thirst for revenge? Previously willing to endure anything for lago, Emilia now wishes to punish her husband. Her relationship to lago was an infatuation where she was blind to his selfish actions.

Shakespeare’s Othello stands as a literary masterpiece which explores the both the roles of love and infidelity. Emilia’s relationship with lago was entirely one-sided, where she was willing to go to extreme lengths to earn his love and affection. Her monologue reveals her new attitudes in her marriage, one where Emilia sees herself as an equal and independent from lago.

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The Contrasting Themes of Love and Infidelity in Othello, a Play by William Shakespeare. (2022, Dec 24). Retrieved from

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