Obedience In Othello

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“O, lay me by my mistress’ side” (5.2.284) . This plea of devotion, spoken by Emilia upon her deathbed in Shakespeare’s Othello, alludes to a bond that connects her and her mistress, Desdemona. The brilliant playwright took careful attention with every word, and so by closely examining the text and cross-scene references, it is possible to uncover his meaningful and intended relationship of these two prominent women. Despite contrasting social hierarchical positions and personalities between the characters of Emilia and Desdemona, a closer literary analysis exposes Shakespeare’s use of paralleled circumstances, most specifically as revealed and foreshadowed in the intimate bedroom scene moments before their death; these purposeful underlying…show more content…
Within this line, their joint subservience and loyalty to men is revealed. This obedience is a trait that both women adhere to, albeit at different times, and one that indirectly leads to their deaths. For Desdemona, who receives the final brutality of her husband with grace, this means constant and genuine devotion. This is evidenced by her final words that serve to evade Othello of taking responsibility for her death, claiming “I myself” as the one who committed “this deed” (5.2.151-152). Although Emilia eventually does stand up to her husband, she is obedient in a very plot-advancing way when she obtains and loyally passes along the symbolic handkerchief, token of Othello and Desdemona’s love, to the cunning and evil Iago. It was a task that fulfilled his ongoing request to obtain “that which so often you [Iago] did bid me [Emilia] steal,” and for that reason, shows how Emilia remained loyal in obeying Iago (3.3.354). Shakespeare even takes the paralleled obedience a bit further when Emilia ends an aside with her motive of taking the handkerchief for no other reason than “to please his [Iago’s] fantasy” (3.3.343). Despite Iago’s relentless abuse, there is still a part of Emilia that wants to please him and serve his desires, possibly earning affection in return, much in the same way as Desdemona states her desire at the beginning of this scene to “not now displease” her husband
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