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Considering Shakespeares presentation of Emilia how guilty do you think she is of acting as a passive accomplice to Iago in achieving the tragic downfall of Othello and Desdemona?

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Introduction

Considering Shakespeare?s presentation of Emilia how guilty do you think she is of acting as a passive accomplice to Iago in achieving the tragic downfall of Othello and Desdemona? By Rachel Harrison In the play 'Othello', Shakespeare portrays the character of Emilia as both an older and more cynical counterpart to Desdemona, with whom she develops a close and maternal relationship. Despite her seemingly moral and grounded character, Emilia?s one misguided and dishonest act towards her lady, in favour of her husband?s evil bidding, turns out to have devastating consequences and ultimately leads to the tragic demise of both Desdemona and herself. Although certainly guilty of stealing the handkerchief which provides Othello's 'ocular proof' I believe that she is not entirely guilty for her naive and misguided actions or for the deaths that occur as a result. When Emilia arrives in Cyprus with Desdemona, Shakespeare makes it clear that she does not share a loving relationship with Iago. After Cassio has extended his welcome by kissing Emilia, Iago cruelly observes that if ?she give you so much of her lips as of her tongue she oft bestows on me you?d have enough?, which shows his disrespect towards Emilia. ...read more.

Middle

Sadly, Emilia?s attempt to make the presentation of the handkerchief to Iago a teasing, flirtatious interaction fails miserably. The use of the address ?you? is another implication that their relationship is not one of two people who share a bed but rather of two people conversing formally. After being insulted for having ?a thing? for him which he cruelly describes as ?common? she reveals that she has stolen the same handkerchief for him ?which so often? he asked her to steal. Because Iago snatches it, Emilia suspects her husband has bad intentions for its use and asks for Iago to ?give?t me again? as if she has remembered what he is capable of. Before, she justified stealing Desdemona's handkerchief as just a ?filch? which would mend her marriage, but now it seems she has realised the implications of her action: that it was not worth it and she senses that her crime may have consequences. I think that when Emilia was contemplating taking the handkerchief that Desdemona had let ?drop by negligence? she was acting as Iago's passive accomplice as she was fully aware that it would fulfil his fantasy and please him, but when Iago refuses to tell her what he will do with it she panics. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is true that she has been committed to Iago throughout the play, but when she realises the extent of his treachery she stands up for the truth instead. Emilia?s only hamartia is that she is guilty of loving people too much and that she tried to fulfil two very contradictory roles. She loved Iago more than he deserved which resulted in Desdemona's murder, and because she loved Desdemona like a daughter it resulted in her own demise. While Emilia is surely culpable for her part in the plot, and as an audience we find it hard to understand some of the choices she makes, her utter surprise at what Iago has done in Act V in many ways exonerates her. Her love for Desdemona is genuine, but unfortunately Emilia fails to understand the depths of her husband?s villainy before it is too late. I believe it is important to acknowledge that their downfall was partly due to Othello?s jealousy, Iago?s malice and Cassio?s mistreatment of women, however, Emilia?s role in this tragedy cannot be ignored and so to put her blame into perspective she is only guilty for desiring to be loved, and only in part for the tragic downfall of Othello and Desdemona because of her naivety and misguided actions. ...read more.

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