Describe the relationship between Emilia and Iago.

Emilia and Iago’s relationship is extremely unbalanced. While Emilia loves Iago, Iago does not love Emilia. Iago uses Emilia only for his own gain, and Emilia does whatever Iago bids her to do without question.

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Emilia and Iago’s relationship could best be described as one-sided. Emilia shows faithfulness and even love towards her husband, Iago, but he does not reciprocate. He frequently uses Emilia in his schemes for his own purposes. Most of what the reader learns about Iago and Emilia’s relationship comes from Emilia herself, who often speaks of Iago or of husbands in general. Iago, on the other hand, only chides Emilia. He speaks to her only when he may need her to do his bidding and often degrades the entire female sex.

Though Emilia willingly does all that her husband asks, she is a strong woman who isn’t afraid to think for herself. This is proven by her first line in the play, when she tells Iago “You have little cause to say so” in reply to him publicly berating her. This passage also shows how little Iago thinks of his wife that he is willing to not only insult her but does so in front of others.

The reader sees Emilia’s faithfulness proven when she takes a handkerchief from her mistress and wife of Othello, Desdemona. Though her “wayward husband hath a hundred times woo’d me to steal it,” Emilia waits until Desdemona drops it on accident to retrieve it. Emilia is willing to help her husband but maintains a sense of morality despite his using her for vile purposes.

Emilia says she will give the handkerchief to Iago despite not knowing what he intends to do with it. She doesn’t seem to care though, saying “I nothing but to please his fantasy.” It is clear from this line that Emilia only does what she does in the hope of pleasing Iago.

The way Emilia speaks in general of husbands is further insight to how she is treated. In act three, scene four, she describes husbands as merely filling up on women, then getting rid of them when they are done.

'Tis not a year or two shows us a man:
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
To eat us hungerly, and when they are full,
They belch us.

The first portion of this text shows us that perhaps Emilia and Iago had a more reciprocal relationship at first. “A year or two shows us a man” claims that it takes a little while for a man’s true heart to show. This indicates that at first, maybe, Iago did love Emilia back or at least pretended to love her. This could explain why she remains dedicated to him despite his cruelty towards her; she is hoping to regain the kindness he may have once shown her.

Towards the end of the play Emilia has an arguably feminist monologue wherein she explains how alike to men women are and how unfair it is for women to be treated as lesser. In the last two lines of her speech Emilia says, “Then let them use us well: else let them know, the ills we do, their ills instruct us so.” When she says this, Emilia is saying that she hopes men will begin to treat women better. If not, they will soon learn that any bad acts done by women are done so because the evil of man tells them to do it. It can be assumed that Emilia is thinking of Iago at this time, for he uses her frequently for himself. At this point in the story Emilia knows Iago has used her for evil deeds.

Near the end of the play when Othello has killed Desdemona, Emilia begs Iago to deny his part in it. She tells him, “Thou’rt not such a villain: speak for my heart is full.” By now Emilia is figuring out what role her husband has played in this scheme against Othello, yet she still hopes to find him innocent. Once she realizes her part in it, the retrieving of the handkerchief, Emilia confesses to Othello. Iago stabs her. Once she was no longer on his side, admitting her own villainy and therefore his as well, Iago kills his own wife. He no longer has any use for Emilia and punishes her for confessing their sins with death.

It can be concluded that despite his villainy, Emilia truly loves Iago. Though she is aware of his faults, she still tries to please him and continually hopes to find him innocent of villainy. Perhaps she does so to gain the love that he never gave her, though it never works. Iago cares not for Emilia, believing all women beneath him. He sees Emilia’s only true purpose as serving him.

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As the other educator pointed out, Iago is an overprotective, jealous, and domineering husband. The root of his bad behavior toward his wife Emilia originates from his contempt of her intelligence. In short, Iago doesn't think much of Emilia. She's a tool that he uses to further his ambitious ends.

In act 3, scene 3, Emilia tells Iago that she finally has possession of Desdemona's handkerchief. Recall that Iago had exerted continuous pressure on Emilia to steal the handkerchief in the past. Now that she has it, Emilia thinks that her husband will be pleased with her.

However, he displays nothing but contempt for Emilia. Iago rudely asks her why she's hovering about the place alone. When she hands him the handkerchief, he grabs it with a rude comment: "It is a common thing . . . to have a foolish wife." Iago doesn't thank Emilia. For her part, Emilia is a little irritated by Iago's poor treatment, and she demands, "What will you give me now / For the same handkerchief?"

Iago doesn't humor her with an answer, which upsets her. Now, unlike many past occasions, Emilia openly questions her husband about his intentions. However, Iago rebuffs her, as he always does. At this point, we begin to see Emilia exert her personal agency and begin to push back against Iago's abusive treatment. Emilia's loyalty to Desdemona compels her to do everything she can to protect her mistress.

Matters come to a head when Emilia discovers to her horror (in act 5) that her husband has betrayed Desdemona and accused her mistress of adultery. At this point, Emilia puts aside her characteristic submissiveness and turns on Iago.

She confronts not only Iago but Othello, as well, after the latter murders Desdemona. Emilia's courageous stand rests on her resolve to not "charm" her "tongue" any longer, while her mistress lies "murdered in her bed."

Emilia even tells Iago that she may never go home again, and she characterizes Iago's acts for what they are: evil.

'Twill out, ’twill out.—I peace?
No, I will speak as liberal as the north.
Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,
All, all cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak.
Emilia refuses to keep silent, and her boldness (unfortunately) leads to her death at Iago's hands.
To summarize: Emilia and Iago's relationship is initially unequal in nature. However, Emilia's last act of defending her mistress and the truth demonstrates that she is a better person than her husband. In death, Emilia retains her personhood and conscience.
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Iago and Emilia's relationship doesn't appear to be based on love. But then that's probably because Iago is constitutionally incapable of love. Iago is insanely jealous of his wife and has got it into his head that she's been cheating on him with Othello. This isn't an expression of love, however, but of self-regard. Iago is very much a man of his time. The merest hint of infidelity on the part of his wife, however implausible, is a threat to his masculinity. Iago's reputation is everything to him, both as a man and as a soldier, and that reputation is damaged by any suggestion that Emilia's turned him into a cuckold.

Emilia, for her part, is absolutely devoted to her husband. She aims to please, and will do anything for Iago, even if it means being used as a pawn in a wicked plot to destroy Desdemona. Emilia is blissfully unaware of why Iago wants her to go and fetch Desdemona's handkerchief. She hasn't the faintest idea of what her husband proposes to do with it, but it really doesn't matter; all she wants to do is please her man:

I’ll have the work ta'en out And give ’t Iago. What he will do with it Heaven knows, not I. I nothing but to please his fantasy (Act III Scene iii).

In many respects, Iago and Emilia's relationship parallels that between Othello and Desdemona. Both women have the misfortune to be married to unworthy men, who treat them abominably. Yet Emilia and Desdemona respond to their husbands' jealousy, anger, and harsh words with love, kindness and forbearance. There is more than a hint of codependency about these relationships, and Emilia's codependency, like Desdemona's, ultimately leads to tragedy.

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