Women's Role in Othello: Analysis of Themes in The Play

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1035 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 1035|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Role and Portrayal of Women in Othello
  3. Tragic Hero in Othello
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works Cited


In Shakespeare’s works, loyalty is a very prominent theme. It is what makes a character across many works a catalyst that pushes each story. In the sixteenth century, a construct that was upheld greatly. 'Striking is the degree to which subservience and a sense of deference to authoritative figures,' in other words, loyalty, 'prevails within what is known as the sixteenth century' (SCJ, 49). When looking at loyalty in Othello, it is clear that it varies greatly and is constantly changing. In Othello, loyalty can be evaluated in the relationships surrounding the least apparent character, Emilia, highlighting the complex interplay of loyalty and women's roles in Othello. Emilia’s shifting loyalty is the driving force of Othello. In analyzing Emilia’s actions one can see how her loyalty reveals her delusional mindset. A mindset that has plagued women in the sixteenth century for some time. Even more so, how this makes Emilia, more than a supporting character.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Role and Portrayal of Women in Othello

In Othello, Emilia is a minor character in Othello; but, looking at her actions and the values she hold it should be taken into account. Compared to Othello, Emilia represents something unique; an outspoken woman that utilizes knowledge around her. Notice, throughout the play, Emilia shares her opinions more than women were usually allowed. She represents more than the common archetypes of victim or seductress. She takes an active role in the dealings in Othello. Whether this be her part in Iago’s conspiring, her silence, or her speech. This coincides and contrasts with the codes of ‘female obedience’. At times she follows what is expected of a woman in Shakespeare’s work; she behaves in a manner that would be considered socially incorrect. When discussing infidelity with Desdemona, Emilia says, “Let husbands know their wives have sense like them”, for women are not the ‘frail’ beings they have depicted in society for centuries(4.3.70). “The ills [women] do, [men’s] ills instruct us so”(4.3.114-115). Emilia shows a mindset that many women would not have during this time period. It suggests the idea that women were equal to men; a theory that would have been rejected. Moreover, she criticizes the current standards of marriage. Thus, she maneuvers the ideals of wifely subordination. Another thing that should be noticed is her honesty at the climax at the falling point of the play. Disregarding the rules of ‘female obedience’ and her own safety, Emilia takes on the role of a unreserved character, telling the audience and the visitors of the household the true dealings of the tragedy.

Emilia is shown as someone to be sensible. But, her actions prove otherwise. Part of this stems from the fallacy that she can salvage an amicable relationship out of the noxious one she currently shares with Iago. The hope that Emilia has in finding favor with Iago is ingrained in her mind throughout and in continuation until the end of the play. Her cynicism is clearly displayed whenever she speaks upon it; believing that 'they are all but stomachs and we all but food” (3.4.729). But, regardless of the inner feelings she harbors, she is overpowered by the rules “instructing obedience and submissiveness to authority”. This is clear, as, throughout the duration of the play, Emilia was unable to defend herself when it came to being demeaned by Iago. Allowing such abuse and shaming words like: “foolish” or “wench” (3.3.348,359). She carries the mindset many wives of her time would. ‘That love is not a necessity in a marriage. In order to survive one must be amicable and obedient.’

This showcases the delusion that surrounds the women of Othello. Take into account the other female roles, Desdemona and Bianca. Desdemona has little character development. Her love and loyalty to her husband, Othello, blinds her to his wickedness (5.2.138-141). The same can be said for Bianca. A woman of ill-repute, has a deep loyalty to a man who does not reciprocate. This is a common factor of women in Othello that should be observed. And Emilia’s morphing character exhibits that.

Tragic Hero in Othello

In Othello, there are few that resemble a hero. But, in the analyzation of Emilia, it can be said that she has the making of a tragic hero. Emilia displays high intelligence within Othello. Moreover, she is not completely innocent as one of her flaws is that of her gullibility. Her willing gullibility guided her down the path of deceit despite her moral standards. Emilia’s constant denial about the nature of events allow the death of many. Only when Desdemona dies, does Emilia become aware that her actions are immoral. Note when she says, “Tis proper I obey him, but not now” (5.2.204). This means that she can no longer allow villainy to reign. Again her loyalty shifts, to the side of justice, where she now reveals the truth. Her ‘betrayal’ caused her very death, as Iago did not hesitate to prevent his secrets from being spilled. Her actions and mindset closely resemble that of a hero.

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.


Loyalty plays a significant role in Othello. These are successfully shown though Emilia.The metamorphosis her loyalty goes through showcases her development as a character and other underlying problems as well. It’s supplemented by the other female characters present in the play. Emilia for the beginning allows her inhibitions to restrict her and dissuade her from being truthful; having an imbalance in loyalty. Her efforts to please Iago appears to be successful, but proves otherwise. The social order that is represented in the sixteenth century is constantly battled. The abuse she has suffered can be reflected across the lives of many women in sixteenth century societies. It shows that she, as a character, despite the strong front that is placed, Emilia is illuded by her surroundings. Her actions and mindset throughout Othello showcase not only does her character need to be placed at a higher regard, but she should be considered as a main character. Moreover, the heroic qualities that Emilia displays on top of her flaws is reason enough to consider Emilia a tragic heroine of Othello. 

Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1993.
  2. Dollimore, Jonathan. 'Subversion and Containment: 'Emilia' in Othello.' Essays in Criticism, vol. 38, no. 4, 1988, pp. 303-318.
Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Women’s Role in Othello: Analysis of Themes in the Play. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from
“Women’s Role in Othello: Analysis of Themes in the Play.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Women’s Role in Othello: Analysis of Themes in the Play. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2023].
Women’s Role in Othello: Analysis of Themes in the Play [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 31 [cited 2023 Dec 1]. Available from:
Keep in mind: This sample was shared by another student.
  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Write my essay

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled


Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Get Your
    Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!
    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now