Discuss the significance and dramatic purposes of Emilia in Othello.

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shannonsuddath eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emilia serves multiple purposes in the play.  She is Iago's wife and serves as the instrument of Desdemona's destruction when she filches the hankerchief for Iago's unknown purposes.  She is also a foil for Desdemona's innoncence, and serves to remind the reader that in Iago's words, "nor can all master's be truly followed."  By this I mean that as her husband, Iago is her master in all respects.  This ultimate irony, that she should not follow her lord and master, is what serves to undo all of Iago's careful plotting when she defies him and reveals him as the devil he is.  That Iago is thoroughly undone by a woman, and a woman he is supposed to know better than anyone, is, in some ways, truly poetic justice.  Iago knew Othello better than Othello knew himself, without doubt, but that he should not know the one with whom he shared a bed and a life is truly ironic indeed. 

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emilia serves several purposes in this play. She is, first and foremost, Desdemona's handmaid and confidante.  She is also the wife of Iago.  She becomes very important in the play because she gets the handkerchief that Othello gave Desdemona for Iago to use in his plot.  She betrays Desdemona by obtaining the handkerchief and giving it to Iago, which is a turning point in the play.  Once Othello believes Desdemona gave the handkerchief to Cassio, he is driven over the edge.  Emilia is killed by Iago.