ACT III - Scene.iii
This scene takes place in the garden of the castle and Desdemona
and Cassio enter.
It is clear that they have discussed Cassio’s position and she is persuaded to make representations to Othello to reinstate him. Emilia is also with them and her belief is that her husband, Iago, is truly upset concerning Cassio’s disgrace. Desdemona is confident that her petition will be successful.
Othello approaches and Desdemona urges Cassio to stay and
witness her approach to Othello, but he hurries away, still ashamed of his conduct on the previous day. His exit is witnessed by Othello and Iago, who says, “Ha!
I like not that!” Othello has been having second thoughts about dismissing Cassio and is not suspicious of his wife and her friendship with Cassio, but Iago makes insinuations that sow a seed of doubt in Othello’s mind.
It is clear that Othello does intend to reinstate Cassio, but he
wishes to make him sweat a bit longer.
Iago makes the suggestion that Cassio is wooing Desdemona and he
reminds Othello that Desdemona and Cassio have been alone together before.
Desdemona makes her plea for Cassio’s reinstatement and Othello
advises her that he will relent.
She leaves with Emilia and Iago proceeds to cast more doubt in Othello’s mind about his wife’s faithfulness. He first of all encourages Othello to be more curious about his wife’s activities, but Iago holds back from making any direct accusations at this stage. As Othello starts to ask Iago for more details just as he did with Cassio, he appears to be protecting Desdemona. Othello is convinced that Iago is honest never once considering that he could be totally evil. By nature Othello is not a jealous man, but Iago cunningly suggests that he should be jealous, hinting that he has cause. Othello says that if there is suspicion concerning Desdemona, then this should be supported by evidence. Iago suggests that it is more natural for her to have empathy with Cassio because they are of the same race, and he insinuates that Othello is a foreigner. Iago echoes the words of Desdemona’s father by saying that she deceived her father. He holds back from saying that she is deceiving Othello, leaving him to come to that conclusion.
Iago continues his work on Othello boosted by the fact that his
words are having effect on Othello’s mind, and he is successfully fuelling Othello’s vivid imagination. He is careful to stress his love and loyalty to Othello and only speaks so out of friendship.
Othello is still convinced that Desdemona is honest and Iago
feigns to agree by saying, “Long live she so! And long live you to think so!”
Iago makes a veiled suggestion that Desdemona’s controversial
choice of husband indicates that she may have perverse feelings for other men.
The audience witness Othello’s change and he requests Iago to
watch his wife and report any other lapses in her behavior.
Iago suggests that Othello should suspend Cassio’s reinstatement
and see if Desdemona will act on Cassio’s behalf.
Othello is left alone and he is now troubled concerning the
suggestion that Desdemona has been unfaithful. He has lost some confidence and is bewildered by this turn of events.
Desdemona enters and she notices that her husband is not his
He complains of a headache. She offers to bind his forehead with her handkerchief, but it is too small and as they leave the garden, it is dropped unnoticed. Emilia enters the garden and picks up the handkerchief and advises the audience that this was Othello’s first gift to Desdemona. We also learn that Iago had urged his wife to try and steal this handkerchief from Desdemona. She had not thought that this would be possible because Othello had stressed that Desdemona should always keep this handkerchief close by her. Emilia considers that fate has played a part here, and she will give the handkerchief to Iago rather than return it to Desdemona. Iago decides to plant the handkerchief in Cassio’s lodging.
After much thought, Othello is now convinced that Iago’s
accusations are correct, but he still requires proof and urges Iago to obtain this. Iago curses himself for being ‘honest’ with Othello, suggesting that his master might have been better in
This only goes to persuade Othello that Iago is honest and true. Iago then creates a totally false story saying that he overheard Cassio talking in his sleep about making love to Desdemona, but that a dream is not evidence. He then uses his trump card and tells Othello that he has seen Cassio using Desdemona’s handkerchief to wipe his beard, carefully describing the embroidery. Othello is now convinced, and he charges Iago to arrange Cassio’s death. Iago agrees, but requests that Othello allows his wife to live, but Othello is determined to kill her also.
The scene ends with Othello proclaiming Iago as his lieutenant.
At the outset, we have Othello’s total love for and trust in his wife.
From line 34 the scene deals with Iago eating away at Othello’s
mind and reason, where we have Iago’s reference to Cassio’s exit from the garden when he says, “Ha! I like not that!”
He suggests that Othello should be wary of being jealous, knowing full well that by nature Othello is not a jealous man, and he says,
“O! Beware, my lord, of jealousy;
it is the green-eye’d monster, which doth mock
the meat it feeds on: that cuckold lives in bliss
who, certain of its fate, loves not his wronger”
What Othello should be wary of is the monster Iago, who is
feeding on Othello’s dark side, bringing it to the surface by his innuendos.
Iago goes on to remind Othello that she deceived her father in
marrying the Moor. Iago is pleased to see how his work on Othello is progressing, and he becomes bolder. He suggests that Desdemona is having second thoughts about her marriage to Othello,
and regrets their partnership.
In Othello’s soliloquy, we see the results of Iago’s poison.
He opens by praising Iago’s honesty. He feels that Desdemona has been playing with his feelings and they are as sensitive as any white man’s. He curses the marriage and says, “I had rather be a toad and live upon the vapor of a dungeon than keep a corner in the thing I love for others’ uses ''. If she be false, O! then heaven mocks itself.”
Othello’s confidence is undermined and although we do not feel
that he is acting jealously, there is a clear indication that he requires revenge. We have watched Othello change from being the hero to the victim.
Fate seems to be against him and for Iago, demonstrated by the
incident with the handkerchief. This will become the evidence of Desdemona’s ‘infidelity’.
We observe Emilia’s loyalty to her husband and we wonder why she
has no idea concerning Iago’s plot of intrigue. She says, “I nothing but to please his fantasy”.
Although there will be tragic events at the end of the play, the
real tragedy is the destruction of Othello by Iago. He is slowly losing his nobility and coming down to Iago’s level. Evil is corrupting his mind and his actions, and Iago’s words will make
Othello an instrument of evil, just as Roderigo and Cassio had been used before.