Does Iago have a love life of his own?

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enotes | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Iago exploits the amorous passions of both Roderigo and Othello, but appears to have no romantic inclination himself. We gain some insight into Iago's relationship to the opposite sex through the statements and actions of his wife, Emilia. In Act IV, Scene 3, a troubled Desdemona asks her older serving lady Emilia if she would ever be unfaithful toward her husband. Emilia says that she would not cheat on Iago by "heaven's light," and then punctures the conceit by saying that she would commit adultery in the dark. Emilia apprises her lady about men in general, "Let them use us well; else let them know / The ills we do, their ills instruct us so" (IV.iii.101-102). We gain the sense that the childless marriage between Iago and Emilia is held together by mundane bonds rather than any real affection. Once Emilia figures out how Iago has used the handkerchief that he instructed her to take from Desdemona, she immediately decides to inform on her husband, siding with her innocent lady rather than her guilty spouse. Iago is infuriated, calling her a "villainous whore." For the first time in the play, Iago loses his cool. When he kills Emilia, it does not advance his cause at all; by this time, the details of his scheme are in the open, and Emilia's death serve no purpose. Iago does not have a love life and is incapable of all emotion save rage.

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