The Role of Emilia in Othello College

In Shakespeare’s play, Othello, the character Emilia is essential in exploring the theme of gender and the expectations placed on women. The anonymous writer of, “From Counsel to the Husband: To the Wife Instruction” believes the answer to maintaining a happy marriage is for both men and women to know and respect the role God has given them (279). Through the character of Emilia, Shakespeare challenges the idea that if a women is ideal in the role given to her, and an obedient wife, then she will be able to maintain a happy and successful marriage.

The anonymous writer states that, “the highest degree of society is between the husband and the wife,” (278). In Othello Emilia is married to Iago, which means her greatest allegiance is to him, and we see this when it comes to the handkerchief. Emilia is Desdemona’s attendant, but also as readers see, her friend and confidant. However, when Desdemona drops the handkerchief given to her by her husband, Emilia picks it up and gives it to her own husband Iago. Although she has no idea why Iago had been asking for it or what he intended to do with it, she states, “I nothing but to please his fantasy.” (3.3.343.) She is doing what a wife was expected to do and maintaining the “highest...

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