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Othello's Female Characters Compared

  • Date Submitted: 01/20/2012 11:38 AM
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Lesley Spurling
November 3, 2011
AP English 12
Critical Analysis of Emilia and Desdemona
In Shakespeare’s play, Othello, women characters are few and far between. Yet, the two main female characters, Desdemona and Emilia, are arguably the most insightful in the entire play. Because each of these two characters are so vastly different, their roles in the play are only strengthened when put side by side and compared and contrasted. Emilia, Iago’s stubborn and somewhat rebellious wife, and her mistress Desdemona’s, the pure and loving wife of Othello, motives can be easily interpreted just by observing each women’s relationships with their respective husbands.
As one can undeniably agree, Iago is the most sinister character in the play, Othello. However, his wife Emilia truly has no idea neither what he can do nor what he has already done to the other characters of the play. Emilia does, on the other hand, already have a grim, critical opinion of the male race in general. For example, in reference to men, Emilia says, “They are all but stomachs, and we all but food; they eat us hungerly, and when they are full, they belch us” (III, iv, 105-107). As wife to Iago, she is often neglected and chided by him, which just further leads to her admiration of friend Desdemona and Othello’s true love. When Emilia, frustrated by the lack of adoration received from her husband, steals Desdemona’s handkerchief and gives it to Iago, she is oblivious to the horrible sequence of events she has put into motion. One might think she steals the token as a cruel stab of jealousy toward Desdemona, when actually she truly only does it to please her evil and manipulative spouse.

Spurling 2
In opposition to Emilia, Desdemona is as pure and gentle as a dove.   Although she does somewhat betray her father by marrying Othello at the start of the play, she only does this because she truly, whole-heartedly loves the Moor. As things with Othello begin to deteriorate, kind Desdemona never...


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