ACT IV - Scene.i
The scene opens with Iago and Othello outside the castle and
Iago is still pursuing the line that his master should be jealous concerning Desdemona’s behavior. Iago makes veiled suggestions as to what would make Othello jealous. Would it be a kiss or
something more serious? For example – the loss of a valued item.
If that valued item was in the possession of a suitor, would that make Othello jealous? He suggests that if Cassio possesses the handkerchief, then he could only have obtained this by lying with Desdemona. Othello is horrified by this suggestion, but as the possibility of it manifests itself in his mind, he falls into a trance. Iago says, “Work on, my medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught; and many worthy and chaste dames, even thus, all guiltless, meet reproach.”
Cassio enters and tries to revive Othello, but Iago explains
that it is a fit and he should be left to recover in his own way. He urges Cassio to leave and return later.
Othello recovers and Iago tells him that in order for him to be
satisfied that his wife has been unfaithful; he should hide himself and listen to his conversation with Cassio.
Othello agrees. Prompted by Iago, Cassio returns and they engage in a conversation concerning Bianca, but Othello assumes it is Desdemona that Cassio speaks about. Cassio falls into the trap and freely discusses Bianca, and Othello is worked up into a jealous rage. During the conversation, Bianca enters and refers to Desdemona’s handkerchief. Iago cleverly uses this additional information to his advantage. To Othello it seems obvious that Desdemona had given her handkerchief to Cassio. He is appalled that the handkerchief has been passed on to Cassio’s mistress. Bianca demands that Cassio explains himself and tells him to come to supper to explain matters further. The pair leaves and Iago and Othello continue their conversation.
Othello is now determined to have Cassio murdered.
He is in torment, torn between Desdemona’s loveliness and wickedness.
Iago suggests that Othello should strangle his wife in bed and
that he will deal with Cassio.
A trumpet calls and Desdemona enters with Lodovico who is a
friend of Desdemona’s father in Venice. He has a letter from the Duke that Othello starts to read.
During this time, Desdemona tells Lodovico about the trouble between her husband and Cassio. Othello can hear what Desdemona is saying and mutters condemnations, which Desdemona misinterprets as being a reaction to the news in the letter, but he is stating that his wife is evil. Suddenly Othello strikes Desdemona and Lodovico is horrified. Othello pushes Desdemona aside and tells her to go, and she obeys. Othello insults Desdemona in front of Lodovico. The letter in fact orders Othello to return to Venice. Othello leaves bewildered, leaving Lodovico with Iago. Iago confirms that Othello has not been himself and is much changed. He makes the suggestion that his master is out of his mind and that he should be watched.
We now see Iago brimming with confidence and he has now gained
full control over Othello. He has brought down the noble Moor to a rambling soul consumed with vengeance and jealousy. The contrived conversation between Iago and Cassio that Othello
‘overhears’ is even more successful than Iago had hoped due to the intervention of Bianca.
She possesses the valuable handkerchief that is a token of Desdemona and Othello’s love. She is nought but a whore and it makes Desdemona’s relationship with Cassio even more sordid. Othello at this stage is unable to view things dispassionately and so far as he is concerned this is the hard evidence he sought in order to prove his wife’s infidelity. Iago now speaks openly and insultingly regarding Desdemona and even suggests to Othello how he might kill her.
Lodovico’s arrival carrying a message from the Duke provides an
independent witness for Iago. He sees the violence between Othello and his wife and Iago suggests that Othello is going mad. Iago has now set the wheels in motion. He does not require
taking any further action and just has to wait on his plans unfolding.
Originally it had been Iago’s plan to possess Desdemona as part
of his humiliation of Othello. He has to let go of this notion as Othello is determined to murder his wife.