• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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?

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐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.


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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Othello essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the presentation of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello.

    5 star(s)

    It has been suggested that Iago merely induces what would have happened to Othello anyway. Brabantio's ominous words in I.3 are a herald to what may come, and have nothing whatsoever to do with Iago. He warns Othello that Desdemona 'has deceived her father, and may you'.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the ways in which Iago destroys the relationship between Desdemona and Othello

    4 star(s)

    Othello is clearly taken in by this and his attitude turns from that of despair to rage and exclaims "I'll tear her all to pieces!" Iago also invents "other proofs," and so to further confuses Othello but also heightens his anger against Desdemona.

  1. Free essay

    To what extent is Iago responsible for the downfall of other characters in Othello?

    Yet surely Cassio, I believe, received from him that fled some strange indignity Which patience could not pass. [II iii 222-228] By doing so, Iago now has not only managed to appear far to honest and kind in Othello's eyes, (his response being that Iago is simply toning down the extent of Cassio's unprofessional behaviour)

  2. To what extent does Shakespeare present Iago as a tragic villain with no redeeming ...

    Indeed Iago himself may not know his own reasoning - even his soliloquies appear evasive and unsolvable, despite Shakespeare's use of them in his other plays to divulge a character's unhidden self. For example Macbeth's "I have no spur/To prick the sides of my intent, but only/Vaulting ambition" clearly states that ambition is his vice, his reasoning for murder.

  1. 'Othello portrays a world that has the same conviction as our own: that stupidity ...

    of the nobles as he states: "Do not think, gentlemen, I am drunk: this is my Ancient, this is my right hand, and this is my left. I am not drunk now: I can stand well enough and speak well enough."

  2. Explore the presentation of the relationship between Othello and Iago

    jealous of Othello, he is a racist, or as Samuel Taylor describes, Iago shows "motiveless malignancy," meaning that he has no motives for his evil deeds. The relationship between Othello and Iago is of a friendly nature to begin with although before we see the two characters together, Iago has already slurred Othello's good name.

  1. shakespeares presentation of Iago

    Iago gets the handkerchief by snatching it off Emilia, '[snatching it] Why, what's that to you?', Act III, Scene III, line 139. This shows that he doesn't care about anyone at this moment; he wants to carry on his evil plans.

  2. Explore the extent to which Shakespeare's characterisation of Iago and Edmund is influenced by ...

    This shows that he thinks his father and brother are the ideal type of people for his plan as the father is gullible and brother would never imagine anyone wanting to hurt him. Therefore, this emphasises the fact that Edmund has distinct Machiavellian traits.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work