Ironically, in trying to be loyal to her husband (Iago), Emilia, without meaning to, betrays her good friend Desdemona.
Until late in the play, Emilia trusts in Iago, not seeing what a wicked person he is. She steals the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona, at Iago's request. She knows this loss of a gift will upset Desdemona, but she is attempting to be a good wife, faithful to her husband. She doesn't understand what he plans to do with the handkerchief.
When Emilia learns that Iago used the handkerchief to make it look as if Desdemona and Cassio were having an affair, she turns on her husband. It is too late for Desdemona, but Emilia exposes what Iago has done, now showing loyalty to her deceased friend.
Through Emilia, Shakespeare explores the theme of misplaced loyalty. Emilia's heart is in the right place, but she is loyal to the wrong person. However, when she realizes her mistake, she reacts honestly and tells the truth. Shakespeare warns that we should be careful about trusting...
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