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Desdemona and Emilia; Women with such contrast!

Updated on April 1, 2016
"Willow willow"
"Willow willow"

Othello is a tragedy by the world renowned Playwright, actor, dramatist William Shakespeare , completed and staged in the 17th century.

Focusing our attention on the two important female characters of the drama, we see contrast in their respective roles played, their social statuses as well as their characteristics.

Desdemona, the daughter of a respected senator and then the wife of the valiant Moor Othello is of a high social standard. Whereas Emilia belonged to the lower middle class, being the maid of Desdemona, and the wife of Iago, Othello's Ancient.

She is of so free, so kind a disposition. She holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested. This quality of Desdemona is by all means a weakness that has risen due to her lack of knowledge about the cunning, gruesome society. She has no idea that villains as worse as Iago dwell in it, and that all people are not worth helping without considering what the outcomes of her actions could be.

As she was the only daughter of a rich family she hasn't had a chance to associate more people, which is the sole reason that she elopes with Othello not out of love but because I did pity him.This lack of understanding about people and feelings, is why she doesn't understand the growing jealousy in Othello's heart . But Emilia is a woman of experience and is much mature in age, who has lived and associated people of different social statuses and therefore pin points what Othello's rage is all about Is he not jealous?. She further goes on to try and explain "men" to Desdemona We are all but food. They eat us hungerly and when they are full, they belch us.

While Emilia curses "if there be such a villain messing with Othello's mind", Desdemona's reaction is quite a contrast If any such there be, heaven pardon him. This shows her delicate innocent feelings and how different Emilia's opinion is of such men.

The conversation that takes place between these two women about being untrue to husbands make us see Desdemona's innocence and idealism in contrast to Emilia's worldly cynicism and realism. Emilia thinks through the mind of an experienced woman and concludes 'cheating' as The world's a huge thing: its a great price for a small vice. She goes into deep long explanations on this topic while Desdemona poses short questions with the innocence of a child, showing her lack of experience in such matter.

Desdemona is first introduced by Brabantio ,her father, as a maiden never bold. This is proved by how she excuses Othello's violent behaviour as Men are not Gods, how she laments over Othello's change but is unable to reason out the cause, and even at the end accepts her 'murder' to be nobody else's doing but her own. These show that she's not strong enough to stand up and blame the wrong doers, whereas Emilia is a woman of strength and speaks out her heart. She is able to accuse Othello to his face, Thou art a devil, thou art rash as fire and she stands up against her own husband may his pernicious soul rot half a grain a day!. She is for truth and honesty, and doesn't care about losing her position, or marriage when it comes to this.

Although Desdemona was a vibrant character of speech and action at the beginning, where she elopes and talks against her father at the courts, this quality degenerates towards the end of the tragedy up to the extent where she pleads for life from Othello. But Emilia on the other hand, regenerates, she's low and foolish enough to give the handkerchief to Iago without knowing what he has to do with it, but she makes up for this mistake, by speaking out until death, knowing very well that I will never go home. Ironically enough, though Desdemona is called the fair warrior, Emilia is in fact the true warrior.

Another very important contrast between them is the contrast of situation. Desdemona never suspects Othello, for he loved her dearly and too well (which,according to Othello is the main reason that lead to such tragedy). But Emilia who lacked love from her husband Iago, makes sure that he gets the handkerchief ,expecting a kind word from him ( where once again, her action can be pitied and forgiven) which she doesn't receive. But both of these women are killed by the hands of their own husbands, one out of love, the other out of revenge for revealing his plans.

With this we can conclude that Shakespeare's attempt in showing us how people react to similar situations in completely different methods is pretty successful. He shows us that the society is a mixture of all kinds of people and wants us to grasp the good and the wise qualities of these characters to our lives.

put out the light and put out the light
put out the light and put out the light


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    • Chathushkie profile imageAUTHOR

      Chathushkie Jayasinghe 

      2 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Janith I agree with you to some extent about them being interdependant,considerong what Emilia did in the end;she wanted to die beside her beloved mistress.

      But then again, I see them as two strong women of their own different natures. As

      for Desdemona,she's strong in her love

      and kindness which we see as a weakness.

      I appreciate that you tool time to read and comment! Thank you!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Desdemona and Emilia are two thoughts in one consciousness called the woman. They are similar to lesbians who are interdependent.


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