ACT III – Scene.iv
This scene is set outside the castle where we find Desdemona
asking the clown to find Cassio. She is under the impression that Othello wants to forgive him. She is worried concerning the loss of her handkerchief, but Emilia is unable to shed light on
the handkerchief’s disappearance. Desdemona is confident that her husband will not be jealous concerning the loss of her handkerchief.
Othello enters and he is still acting strangely towards
Desdemona, and he asks for Desdemona’s handkerchief. She confesses that she does not have it with her.
Othello reminds her concerning the history of this handkerchief, that it was given to his mother by an Egyptian mystic, and it has powers. Othello states that if she should lose the handkerchief, then it would mean disaster. He then asks her directly if she has lost her handkerchief and Desdemona tries to avoid the question. Othello loses his temper and he leaves.
Cassio and Iago enter and Desdemona tells Cassio that she has
been unable to speak to Othello, as her husband is not himself. She puts her husband’s strange behavior down to pressures of state.
Emilia suspects that Othello is jealous of Desdemona, but she
still thinks he is incapable of this and everyone leaves, except Cassio.
Cassio is joined by his mistress Bianca who is angry with him
for neglecting her. He has Desdemona’s handkerchief, which he found in his lodgings, put there by Iago, and he gives it to Bianca asking her to unravel the embroidery. Bianca suspects that
Cassio has been seeing another woman and becomes jealous. Cassio refutes her suggestion saying that he found the handkerchief in his room.
He sends Bianca away because he wishes to meet with Othello alone.
The audience already witnesses the rift between Othello and
Rather than reinstating Cassio, Othello wishes him dead
believing he has tempted his wife. However, he still has strong feelings for Desdemona and hopes she will be able to produce the handkerchief. When she is unable to do this, he misguidedly
thinks that it is because she lacks feelings for him.
When he originally gave this token to her, he emphasized its importance, it being almost like a good luck charm warding off evil. Evil has in fact entered his mind due to Iago’s influence. There is an indication that perhaps the handkerchief will not play a key part in the storyline for the audience hopes that it might be returned to Desdemona before any real harm is done.
At the start of this scene we see that Emilia is being deceitful
She is not aware of the evil being carried out by her husband, and so she remains loyal to him and lies to Desdemona concerning the handkerchief. Her intention is not to harm Desdemona, but simply to keep in flavour with her husband.
Iago’s plot continues further in this scene, and he is pleased
that Othello is losing his calm and behaving aggressively towards Desdemona.
We still do not see any real signs of jealousy in Othello’s behavior, unlike Bianco towards the end of the scene who is easily roused to jealousy over a minor incident.