ACT IV – Scene.ii
This scene takes place in a room in the castle.
Emilia pleads to Othello proclaiming her mistress’s innocence,
but to no avail. Othello then confronts Desdemona proclaiming that she has betrayed him and that she is of poor character.
She kneels before him asking in what way she has betrayed him. He commands her to swear loyalty to him and this she does. Othello’s reaction to this is that she has made a false oath and is damned. Othello weeps and the only reason Desdemona can put to explain her husband’s reaction is that perhaps he blames her for his recall to Venice. Desdemona continues to plead her innocence, but Othello is so corrupted by Iago’s evil that he refuses to change his mind.
Othello calls for Emilia to return and he tosses money at her and leaves.
Desdemona is in confusion concerning Othello’s behavior and Iago
enters, and she again falls on her knees and begs Iago to speak to Othello on her behalf, swearing her loyalty and undying love for her husband.
As the women leave, Roderigo enters and accuses Iago of
Roderigo’s use to Iago has been served and he makes no effort to calm him down. Roderigo now suspects that the gifts and money he gave Iago as bribes and gifts for Desdemona have not found their way to her. Roderigo threatens to reveal the situation to Desdemona and he warns Iago that he is determined to obtain satisfaction. Iago threatens him that he has pronounced his own death sentence and then attempts to dupe him once more by saying that he is sure to win Desdemona soon. He tells Roderigo that Othello and Desdemona are leaving Cyprus to go to Mauritania and that Cassio is to take Othello’s place in Cyprus. If Roderigo has courage enough to kill Cassio then Othello and Desdemona will have to stay in Cyprus, thus keeping alive Roderigo’s hope to win Desdemona.
We see that Othello’s mind is made up concerning his wife’s
alleged unfaithfulness. Iago’s poison has worked and there is no changing the Moor.
Iago has successfully spun his web of intrigue and provided Othello with the evidence of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness using the treasured handkerchief.
However, there is another element that Iago worked on in his
dealings with Othello.
You will recall from the earlier scenes that this marriage went against the normal conventions and perhaps deep down, Othello may have thought himself unworthy of Desdemona because of his background, whether as a black Moor or as a mercenary for the Venetian cause. This deep-seated doubt, Iago cunningly brought to the surface, and Othello’s recall to Venice may have helped Iago’s cause.
The reader also notes the growing importance of Emilia in the
plot, but unfortunately this would appear to be too late so far as Desdemona’s position is concerned. She will soon be faced with a dilemma concerning her loyalty to her husband and also to her mistress.
It is also important for the reader to grasp Othello’s
situation. He is now convinced of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness and this causes him great anguish.
He still loves her and wishes to keep her, but this could only take place through her confession of guilt. Of course, she has no idea what she has done wrong and therefore cannot confess. There are clearly poor lines of communication between Othello and his wife. Perhaps this can again be put down to their differing social backgrounds. If we look at Desdemona’s situation, she is at a total loss in trying to decipher her husband’s behavior. Is he mentally ill, or does he resent the influence of her family on the Duke back in Venice that has led to his recall? She tries to convince him that she is happy to stay in Cyprus beside the man she loves, but perhaps he thinks she wishes to return home to her family. Unfortunately Othello is now so blinkered in his viewpoint that he does not consider any pleas from either Desdemona or Emilia.
The audience will also note Roderigo showing some strength of
character in confronting Iago, but he is again duped by the master tactician.
Iago now sees an opportunity of disposing of both Cassio and Roderigo if he can persuade one to murder the other. He tells Roderigo where he might find Cassio who is unaware that he will take over from Othello and that in murdering him he will profit and be satisfied.