Emilia in Othello: A complete Transformation

During the sixteenth century, men were able to control their wives and women were not able to speak out against their husbands, including Emilia, a character in William Shakespeare’s play Othello, is completely underestimated by every character, including her husband, Iago. In the beginning of the play, Emilia is submissive, but in the end she transforms and stands up to her husband and doesn’t let him get away with any of his manipulations. At the beginning of the play, Emilia is completely submissive and couldn’t argue with Iago whatsoever, no matter what he said and she was willing to do anything, as long at it helped him succeed.
When Iago talks about women, he really has nothing nice to say. In fact, when Iago is slandering women and talking about Emilia and she doesn’t stand up to him, only Desdemona does, telling Iago to stop talking about Emilia so harshly. He says, “players in your huswifery and huswives in your bed,” saying that women are only good for cleaning and in bed (2. 1. 121-125). Iago goes on to say women talk to much and are practically useless. Desdemona refutes Iago, but Emilia cannot.
Another example of Emilia’s submission is when she and Desdemona are talking about why people cheat and Emilia says that she would cheat on her husband, not if there was any benefit to her, but if it would benefit her husband, she wouldn’t think twice (4. 3. 81-87). Emilia begins the play completely submissive to her husband and unable to defend herself against the awful things he says. Then, towards the middle of Act five, Emilia begins to put Iago’s manipulations together and is wary of his motivations.

As soon as Emilia hears that Desdemona has been killed, she, Othello and Iago are speaking and Emilia begins to question Iago, saying, “disprove this villian if thou be’st a man,” Iago responds saying that he told Othello what he thought was true and Emilia continues to try and figure out what Iago has spun together (5. 2. 210-214). Then, when Emilia pieces more of Iago’s complex puzzle of manipulations, she begins to get angry saying to Iago, “you told a lie, an odious, damned lie! Upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie! ” (5. 2. 216-218).
Emilia makes an accusation, claiming her husband is the reason everyone has been killed, in front of many other men. This was extremely bold of her because during this time, women were taught to obey their husbands. Emilia is the one who Iago should’ve known best, the easiest to trick, but instead she’s the only one who can and does begin to reveal Iago’s complete manipulations of every single other character. Here, Emilia begins her complete transformation from being completely submissive to defying Iago’s commands.
As the drama continues, Emilia completely reveals Iago’s manipulations along with the many lies that he has told all the other characters. Emilia finally puts all the pieces of Iago’s web of manipulations together, and realizes the complete terror that he has caused. When Emilia is questioning Iago, he tells her to be quiet and leave them alone. Emilia responds back angrily, “I will not charm my tounge. I am bound to speak. My mistress here lies murdered in her bed” (5. 2. 220-221) Emilia knows what has happened and knows that she needs to tell everyone before the situation gets even worse and even more people die.
Then, Emilia continues on telling everyone what happened and Iago continues to threaten her to be quiet. Here, Emilia begins her ultimate reveal. She tells Othello, “O thou dull moor, that hankercheif thou speak’st of, I found my fortune, and did give my husband-For often, with a solemn earnestness, more than indeed belonged to such a trifle, he begged of me to steal it” (5. 2. 267-272) Emilia finally tells everyone that she is the one who found the hankercheif, that Cassio did not get the hankercheif from Desdemona and that there is no way Desdemona was cheating on Othello.
The end of act five is where Emilia completely makes her transformation from being an silent, obedient wife, to accusing her husband of murder in public. Therefore, Emilia is underestimated by every character because of her complete obedience to her husband, Iago. Then, as Iago’s plans come to light, Emilia is the first to solve Iago’s puzzle of manipulations and bring them to light in front of many other Venetian men, which was completely surprising to everyone because women at this time were not meant to speak out in public against their husbands and their husbands were supposed to have their wives in complete submission.

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