What do Emilia's comments about men and jealousy in Scene IV of Othello say about her character?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 4, Scene 3, Emilia demonstrates her disillusionment with men and marriage as she speaks to Desdemona. The idealistic Desdemona cannot fathom her husband's suspicion of her because she finds it difficult to believe that a woman would be false to her husband. However, Emilia's experience with Iago--a husband who belittles her in public and who has proved that his opinion of women's value is abysmal--has jaded her. When Desdemona asks Emilia about women cheating or engendering jealousy in their husbands, Emilia not only admits that she would cuckold her husband if it would gain power for him, but she also tells Desdemona that it would be the man's fault if the woman cheats. She explains that men's jealousy causes women to get revenge, that women have lustful desires just as do men, and that men cheat on their wives which justifies a woman's desire to cheat. Emilia's worldly perspective illustrates her experience as a wife and serves as a foil to Desdemona's innocence and purity.