Iago and Emilia Essay

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Hilary Zorgdrager Mrs. Walker
May 31st, 2013
The Cheetah Girls Aren’t the Only Ones with Girl Power
Imagine a world where you are treated differently, belittled, silenced and put down simply because of your gender. This is the world the character of Emilia in William Shakespeare’s play Othello lives in; however, she finds ways to fight back. In the play Othello, Shakespeare develops the character Emilia to give a voice to women who would otherwise be silenced or belittled by their husbands. Emilia argues that men are the cause of faults in their wives, she uses her many strong opinions to assert her equality with men and lastly argues that men and women are the same and deserve the same rights and freedoms.
Shakespeare brings up many controversial issues pertaining to the treatment of women in that time period through Emilia’s character, one of these extremely controversial point that men are the cause of faults in their wives, or essentially argues that maybe men are the problem. She first brings up this opinion when she is speaking with Desdemona and says: “I think it is: and doth affection breed it? / I think it doth: is't frailty that thus errs? / It is so too: and have not we affections, / Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have? / Then let them use us well: else let them know, / The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.” (4.3.98-103)
This is the first scene which the audience sees Emilia truly speak her mind with her good friend. The signs of feminism arise as she argues that the mistakes women make are caused by the mistakes their husbands teach them to do. A second incident that further proves Emilia’s
Zorgdrager 2 point that women are not to blame for their “mistakes” occurs as Othello becomes suspicious of his wife. Othello, though he was tricked by Iago, essentially did cause all of his own problems as he was distrustful of Desdemona without inquiring with her to find out what really happened. When Emilia says, “Thou art rash as fire, to say / That she was false: O, she was heavenly true!” (5.2.134-135). In this quotation the audience see for the first time, Emilia blatantly blaming Othello after he kills his wife for believing she was false with Cassio. This quotation shows how Othello believed she was false because of his own suspicions instead of real evidence leading to her tragic, preventable death. Othello’s jealous nature leads to prove the point that men are the real problem in marriages, rather than their wives.
Another way Emilia acts as the voice of women in the Othello shows as she uses her strong opinions to assert her equality with men. Emilia fights for her rights as she says: “Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak: / 'Tis proper I obey him, but not now. / Perchance, Iago, I will ne'er go home.” (5.2.195-197). This is especially controversial as at the time women are never to disobey their husbands and prior to this line Iago demands: “What, are you mad? I charge you, get you home.” (5.2.194) to which she fights against for what she believes is right. To “ne’er go home” means she is leaving Iago which at the time was unheard of. However, her strong willed opinions give her the strength to defy Iago despite what consequences they might hold. She argues another strong point when she says: “'Tis not a year or two shows us a man: / They are all but stomachs, and we all but food; / They eat us hungerly, and when they are full, / They belch us…” (3.4.103-106). This point conveys a strong metaphor that men are greedy towards their wives. The quotation shows strong imagery of the husband throwing away their wives as they get “full” or uninterested with them. This would have been a very controversial opinion to discuss in the time period as
Zorgdrager 3 women were expected to just obey their husbands and not question anything. Emilia is the only female presence that truly speaks her mind through these scenes. Emilia’s strong opinions give the audience reason to respect her