Characters are what takes forward a drama and they are the ones who create conflicts which creates conflicts through interactions and increase the complexity of the drama. They are the most important to the story as they are the one manipulating the structure and movement of the play, and also the final outcome. It is the work of a dramatist to create his characters such that the whole play can revolve around them and the audience can be awestruck. Characters can be of two types, such as the major characters, and the minor ones. The major characters are the one who directly manipulate the course of the play or the plot ( Howard, et al. ). The minor ones are those which indirectly affect the same. The minor or supporting characters are those who instigate the major ones and support the conflicts throughout the length of a drama. It is the mark of a good dramatist who can craft his minor characters as good as the major ones, drawing an equal amount of attention. A good dramatist will not mind going ahead of his time and portraying his minor characters in a way that attracts a lot of attention or even more than the major characters (Pao and Angela). A minor character does not only unfold itself, it also unfolds shades of the major ones. They sometimes momentarily get involved in the plot and stir up a lot of hustle and leave without a warning mostly. The following essay talks about how Emilia, being one of the minor characters in Othello, draws as much attention as the others and has a purpose of enhancing the colors of the other characters (Kolin and Philip).
Emilia as a character appears in the play for the first time in Act two, scene one. She has a brief presence before she leaves the stage with her mates or companions. In spite of being a minor character, Emilia was extreme opposite to that what Desdimona. Emilia was intelligent and cynical in nature, especially in matters of men and marriages. There was mention of a speech between Desdimon and Emilia regarding the flaws of the opposite sex. She is seen to agree to indulge in the world of adultery if paid sufficiently, which is a fact that Desdimona finds unbelievably unethical. Iago is seen to use Emilia’s close acquaintance with Desdimona, to his benefit, to steal her handkerchief. All this was done to convince Othello that Desdimona had been with Cassio. Emilia disagrees to do as Iago directed, but later she lied when asked about the handkerchief. She is seen to be very ignorant about Iago’s plans until the very end of the final act. In the play, she is accused of infidelity with both Cassio and Othello. Emilia challenges Othello after Desdimona’s death, dismissing the threats imposed on her (Rosen and Jeremy).
Incidents like these build the dramatic tension, which is finally released when the truth about Emilia’s husband was exposed in Act 5, scene ii. The character Emilia contributes greatly to the dramatic course of the play. When the action of the play rises, her contribution is seen as something very noticeable. She unwittingly hands over the object to her husband that sealed Desdemona’s fate. The handkerchief convinces Othello of Desdemona’s guilt. The dramatist equips the character with powers, which can change the tragic outcome. In Act three, in spite of having chances, she did not foil Iago’s plan, in spite of seeing how distressed Othello got regarding Desdemona’s infidelity. She instead chose to put the blame on men in general and marriage. She calls men ‘stomachs’ and women ‘food’ to demonstrate her idea of disgust and call men nothing but greedy. In the drama, women are seen as objects of entertainment and things to control, for men of the era. Emilia believed that women and men should be treated equally and that they should get to enjoy equal rights (Callaghan and Dympna).
It is said that Emilia was introduced into the play intentionally to give intensity to the actions of the character of Iago. It was to intensify the plot of Iago that Emilia was introduced. She has been used to pick up the certain handkerchief, which was a major move in shaping the direction of the play, not just Igo. Emilia and Iago’s relationship is a reflection of Othello and Desdemona’s. Constant conflicts and lack of affection are what characterized their relationship (Singh and Megha). Emilia is merely portrayed to give and outcome to Iago’s views. It was evident that he viewed his marriage the same way he viewed power- something to be conquered, overpowered.
From the above discussion it will be safe to come to the conclusion that Emilia was a strong character in spite of being one of the minor characters of the play. Her purpose was not blank and she successfully gave that extra edge to the character of Iago. The true color of her friendship and loyalty with Desdemona came out in the open during the handkerchief episode. Even being a minor character, her character has been given many shades and made to be an interesting one.
Callaghan, Dympna. A feminist companion to Shakespeare. Vol. 97. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
Howard, Jean E., and Marion F. O'Connor, eds. Shakespeare reproduced: the text in history and ideology. Routledge, 2013.
Kolin, Philip C., ed. Othello: New critical essays. Routledge, 2013.
Pao, Angela C. "Ocular Revisions: Re-casting Othello in Text and Performance." Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (2016): 27-45.
Rosen, Jeremy. "An Insatiable Market for Minor Characters: Genre in the Contemporary Literary Marketplace." New Literary History 46.1 (2015): 143-163.
Singh, Megha. "Exploring the Female Psyche: Portrayal of Shakespeare’s Heroines in Hamlet and Othello in Patriarchal Contexts (2017)."