List Emilia's functions in Othello (at least 4) and expand on one of them.

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bwestbrook eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emilia does serve to further the plot as a means to get the handkerchief to Iago, discover Desdemona's murder, etc., but her role is much more important.  Emilia (and Bianca to some extent) serves as a foil to Desdemona in the play.  Throughout the play Emilia demonstrates her sharp, witty tongue.  She is a woman who has no problem discussing her willingness to have an affair.  "let husbands know their wives have sense like them; they see and smell and have their palates for both sweet and sour, as husbands have." (IV, iii, 99-102)  Desdemona, on the other hand, always declares her faithfulness to her husband and to her marriage.  Emilia distrusts her husband and marriage in general.  She believes that men and women are basically the same and have the same desires and needs.  While Desdemona's character reflects the typical Renaissance view of relationships between men and women, Emilia represents a progressive attitude toward the role of women and women's abilities to have feelings, and desires that have nothing to do with men.  ("And have not we affections, desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?"  IV, iii 105-106)    Emilia's fate is parallel to Desdemona's as well. Both die "guiltless" deaths at the hands of their husbands. 

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'll let you work on expanding them, but here are some functions:

  • She gives the handkerchief dropped by Desdemona to Iago
  • She is relentless in trying to find out who killed Desdemona and bring Othello to justice
  • She exposes Iago about the handkerchief
  • She is the only character Iago cannot control or manipulate
revolution | Student
  • to defend Desdemona's reputation against scandalous lies, strong loyalty and bond towards her by denouncing Iago's lies
  • she is the symbol of truth and honor
  • she would desperately find the truth despite the hardships and turbulent life that she had to suffered through
  • she is a woman of practical intelligence, a power of justice and law and mental courage
john-smith-co-au | Student

Emilia has to key roles in the play. Firstly she acts as a propelling force of the main action. That is, her act of passing on the hamkercheif to Iago, finding Othello and raising the alarm and finally exposing the treachery of iago allow for the unltimate climax and epiphany of the main character othello.

 In addition to the purpose as a propelent, Emilia is also a dramatic foil of the two other women in the play, Desdemona and Bianca. Ultimately,her character is the middle version of the latter mentioned females. Emilia holds a progressive, more liberal approach to life compared to Desdemona, but a more conservative one then Bianca . This is shown by the fact that adultery does not horrify her as it does Desdemona. By comparison, Bianca holds an the most lax view of life, represented by the fact that she is Cassio's prostitute.

bookworm-dg | Student

Emilia also gives us insight to Iago. We see how he treats the women who are close to him. In the end, she lures the truth out of him and clarifies to the other characters what was going on.

Emilia gets Desdemona to reveal many of her personal feelings as well. They are good friends and Desdemona is very honest with her.