by Haley Schwager
Throughout history, women from all time periods have expressed views of feminism, standing out in their generation. In Othello, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, Emilia is a character that is seen consistently throughout the play. A complicated character, Emilia shows feminism and an incredibly strong will, seeming to be from the wrong time period due to her untraditional and unconventional ideals.
Emilia, an important character in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, is Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant. In the beginning of the play, it is clear that Emilia is a strong willed woman, yet she consistently demonstrates an allegiance to her husband. Her and her husband have a very rocky relationship, seeing as he believes her to be unfaithful. Trying to please him, or maybe just hoping for his approval, Emilia betrays Desdemona and steals her handkerchief, which her husband had been desiring. Throughout the play, the relationship between Desdemona and Emilia becomes stronger, yet she never tells Desdemona the truth about the handkerchief. As their relationship continues to grow, Emilia begins to share her views with Desdemona: “Let husbands know/ Their wives have sense like them. They see, and/ smell,/ And have their palates for sweet and sour,/ As husbands have.” (IV,iii,104-108). This is a concept completely foreign to Desdemona, so Emilia is introducing her to the real world. Desdemona, a typical good girl of the time period, has never been exposed to such radical concepts regarding feminism, so it is clear that Emilia does not fit in with the women of the period. At the end of the play, the reader sees a change in Emilia. When she realizes all the harm her husband has done, she finally let’s the truth out. She stands up to her husband, saying, “I will not charm my tongue; I am bound to speak.” (V,ii,220). She is the one that reveals Iago’s lies, which ultimately ends in him killing her. Emilia is a woman with her own mind, but she is still controlled by her husband until she breaks free at the end of the play. She is not afraid to speak her thoughts, screaming at Othello after he killed Desdemona even though he is extremely dangerous and volatile. She stands up for what she believes in. With her modern views on feminism, she is a woman ahead of her time. She stands out so much that she is killed, a perfect example of her unique boldness as a woman in this period.
Throughout all of Othello, it is painfully clear that Emilia is an exceptional and unique character. She stands out among a crowd of oppressed women, able to express her views and feelings without remorse. Although at times she falls in line with women’s obedience of period — specifically when she does Iago’s bidding — she ultimately separates herself from her husband’s power, breaking free even though it gets her killed. She pays the ultimate price for her bold and radical ideas, exemplifying how she was from a different, more accepting and tolerating time period. Emilia is not only an interesting and important character in Othello, but she also shows the idea of the modern woman, meant for something bigger. Sadly, she was simply born into the wrong time, like many women before her and many to come. The fight for feminism continues today, and like Emilia, there are women being oppressed for their innovative and non conformative views of gender equality. Hopefully, Emilia would be proud of the world that women have created for themselves today; hopefully, she would finally belong.