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What is the nature of the relationship between Emilia and Desdemona in act 4?

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In the fourth act, Desdemona and Emilia demonstrate a trusting relationship. The maid does not question Desdemona’s loyalty and actively protects her in front of others.

Detailed answer:

Iago’s wife, Emilia, is not the central character of the play. However, she has a significant influence on the development of the plot.

Being a caring maid, Emilia never intended to harm Desdemona. She betrays her, stealing her mistress’ handkerchief. Emilia has no other choice since she follows Iago’s, her husband, commands. Giving him the tissue, she questions:

What will you do with ‘t, that you have been
so earnest
To have me filch it?
(Act 3, Scene 3)

Emilia helps to implement the evil plan by tricking the Moor and boosting his jealousy, but she doesn’t know about it. This tiny piece of tissue becomes a trigger for Othello’s suspicions.

In act 4, the woman already has doubts about Iago’s malicious intent to separate the spouses. However, she is not confident enough to reveal her husband’s plan. Emilia is sure that Desdemona’s loyalty and honesty and makes many efforts to convince Othello:

I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest,
Lay down my soul at stake: if you think other,
Remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom.
If any wretch have put this in your head,
Let heaven requite it with the serpent’s curse!
(Act 4, Scene 2)

In William Shakespeare’s Othello act 4, scene 3, the readers can track many differences between Desdemona and Emilia. In a private conversation, Emilia reveals her inner nature. She claims she is ready to be an unfaithful wife if she can give her husband the whole world in exchange:

In troth, I think I should; and undo’t when I had
done. Marry, I would not do such a thing for a
joint-ring, nor for measures of lawn, nor for
gowns, petticoats, nor caps, nor any petty
exhibition; but for the whole world,–why, who would
not make her husband a cuckold to make him a
monarch?
(Act 4, Scene 3)

However, Desdemona does not believe that there are women capable of this. The contrast between their attitude to marriage and loyalty demonstrates Desdemona’s pure nature. Nevertheless, Emilia cannot be perceived as a negative character. Her faithfulness towards Desdemona, in the end, makes her betray Iago. Thus, her relationship with her mistress shows pure love and trust.

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IvyPanda. "What is the nature of the relationship between Emilia and Desdemona in act 4?" November 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-nature-of-the-relationship-between-emilia-and-desdemona-in-act-4/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "What is the nature of the relationship between Emilia and Desdemona in act 4?" November 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-nature-of-the-relationship-between-emilia-and-desdemona-in-act-4/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'What is the nature of the relationship between Emilia and Desdemona in act 4'. 19 November.

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