In Act IV, Scene II, lines 12-19 of Othello, Emilia defends her mistress. Paraphrase her words.

1 Answer | Add Yours

henryscholar's profile pic

Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Resolved to kill Desdemona that evening, Othello, distraught, questions Emilia about his wife and Cassio: "You have seen nothing, then?" (4.2.1) Emilia responds that not only has she not seen anything incriminating, she has never even suspected adultery. As the unsatisfied Othello presses her for any recollection of wrongdoing, Emilia mounts an eloquent defense of the faithfulness of her mistress, saying she would put her own soul on the line for the sake of Desdemona's honesty:

I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest     

My lord, I dare to bet she is telling the truth.

Lay down my soul at stake: if you think other,

In fact, I would wager my own soul on it: if you think otherwise

Remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom.

Get rid of the idea; it deceives your heart’s desire.

If any wretch have put this in your head,

If a villain has put this into your head,

Let heaven requite it with the serpent's curse!

Let God punish him with the curse He placed on the snake after the fall of man!

For, if she be not honest, chaste, and true,

If she is not faithful, honest and true,

There's no man happy; the purest of their wives

Then no man is happy; the purest wife    

Is foul as slander.

Is as filthy as slime.

In her asseveration, Emilia gets the picture: Some scoundrel - ironically, her husband - has planted these terrible suspicions in Othello's mind. In her view that person deserves the same divine punishment visited upon the serpent for deceiving Eve. In other words, Emilia implies that Desdemona is as innocent as Eve was before the fall. But to no avail, and accusing Emilia of being little more than a pimp ("simple bawd" [4.2.20]), Othello has Desdemona summoned to face her death.

We’ve answered 318,982 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question