The Significance and Dramatic Purposes of Emilia
In Shakespeare’s “Othello”, Emilia is considered one of the minor characters. She is the wife of Iago and the lady in waiting to Desdemona. Emilia makes a crucial contribution to the play as a whole. She contributes to the characterization of a couple of key characters and adds to the dramatic irony of the play. She plays an essential role in the escalation of the dramatic action. She also adds to some of the themes of the play. Emilia contributes to the characterization of both Iago and Desdemona. Emilia enters the play in Act II, Scene i when she and the party arrive in Cyprus. Iago speaks to her rudely and treats her disparagingly in front of the others; “Come on, come on! You are
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One of the main themes in Othello is jealousy. Emilia contributes to this theme in several instances. One of these instances is in Act I, scene iii Iago reveals in his soliloquy that another motivation for hating the Moor is that he believes Othello may have bedded Emilia; “ I hate the Moor, And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets H’as done my office…” (I.iii.377-379). Iago then proceeds to provoke Othello’s jealousy. Another contribution to the jealousy theme is in Act III, scene iv Desdemona states she has never given cause for Othello to be jealous. Emilia speaks to jealousy and describes it as a monster; “ They are not ever jealous for the cause, But jealous for they’re jealous. It is a monster Begot upon itself, born on itself.” (III.iv.159-161). This also supports the imagery created in Act II, scene iii when Iago is warning Othello the dangers of jealousy; “ O’ beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock…” (III.iii.166-167). Emilia plays a significant role in Othello and serves many dramatic purposes. These range from characterization, plot development, dramatic irony and theme and imagery development.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice. Ed. Alvin Kernan. New York: Signet Classics,