• 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)

    Emphasis is placed on this by way of Iago's soliloquies. He is the only character to have several asides, which is unusual as it is usually the central character that requires these. They are necessary in Iago's case because the audience needs an insight into the workings of Iago's mind.

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    4 star(s)

    However Othello clearly mistrust Desdemona as he asks Iago to "set on thy wife to observe." This shows that Othello does not know what to believe. It is plausible to think that Othello would like to believe that Desdemona

  1. Free essay

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

    Firstly, Iago attempts to take Cassio into his confidence by his use of "men's talk," in other words, the way in which he speaks of Desdemona. His language has both sexual connotations and is degrading, saying she is "full of game" [II iii 18], and is "sport for Jove" [ II iii 16].

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

    Language of this sort is later reflected in Othello's speeches after the antagonist, Iago, has twisted his mind. When conversing with others, Iago's language at times seems sexual and distasteful. For instance, when talking about Desdemona with Cassio, he describes her as "full of game," which means sexually responsive and he says her voice sounds a "parley to provocation."

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

    As one critic put it, if the play is to be "anything more than parable, we must feel that it represents conflicts between, and within, actual human beings"2.

  2. Explore the presentation of Desdemona in Othello

    'Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do all my abilities in thy behalf.' Here the audience sees her dedication to Cassio. 'thy solicitor shall rather die than give thy cause away.' Her conversation after the stripping of Cassio's rank depicts her true friendship as no other conversation between them could.

  1. Explore how Shakespeare presents Iago as an evil villain

    Desdemona's murder occurs over 126 lines of Act 5 Scene 2. Othello justifies his reasons with his wife and the audience can view the tragedy through Othello's own emotional breakdown within this scene as he tries to come to terms with the justice that Iago has created for the reasoning behind killing Desdemona.

  2. How effective is Shakespeare in creating Iago as a tragic villain?

    Many critics believe that Iago has no motives at all and is, as William Hazlitt suggests, "a philosopher...who plots the ruin of his friends as an exercise for his understanding..."4 .

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