ACT V – Scene.ii
The last scene of the play takes place in Desdemona’s bedchamber
where she is asleep as Othello enters.
He is determined to rid the world of this beautiful creature
before she can do more wrong. Her beauty overcomes him, but he maintains his course. She awakes and recognizes his intent. He accuses her of giving the handkerchief to Cassio, but this
she denies saying that Cassio will testify to the truth of the matter. Othello tells her that Cassio has been killed and Desdemona is distraught because he will not be able to verify her story.
Othello misinterprets her grief as being her loss of her lover. Othello starts to strangle her, but is distracted by Emilia’s calls outside the door. He draws the curtains around Desdemona’s bed and allows Emilia to enter.
She tells Othello that there has been a murder and he assumes
that it is Cassio, but she says that Cassio lives; it is Roderigo that has been slain. Othello is appalled that Cassio has not shared the same fate as Desdemona who now gives up a faint cry, as she
is not yet dead. Protesting her innocence she says, “A guiltless death I die” and Emilia asks her who has committed this deed and in an attempt to protect her husband, she tells her it is suicide.
However, Othello confesses that it was he that strangled her. He tells Emilia that Iago has been witness to Desdemona’s unfaithfulness and Emilia is astonished at this revelation. She realizes that her husband has been plotting against her mistress and Othello and decries him.
She calls out for help and Montano, Gratiano and Iago rush in.
Emilia accuses her husband of being deceitful and false and Iago tries to silence his wife, but she is determined to expose her husband’s evil.
Othello acknowledges the crime he has committed for he believed
Desdemona to be unfaithful and Iago was his witness for he had seen Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s possession.
Emilia reveals the truth concerning the handkerchief, but Iago denies her story. Othello now sees the truth of the matter and turns on Iago. Iago stabs Emilia and flees the scene pursued by Montano, while Gratiano remains to prevent Othello’s escape. Emilia dies and lies by her mistress singing snatches of the Willow Song. She tells Othello that Desdemona was always true to him.
Gratiano remains on guard outside the room, while inside Othello
discovers a sword. He asks Gratiano to enter the room and he shows him the weapon, but he does not wish to use the weapon other than to take his own life.
Just then the company returns with Iago as prisoner, and also
Cassio who is carried in on a chair. Othello wounds Iago with the sword and asks Cassio’s pardon. Iago remains silent.
On the body of Roderigo letters was found, one containing
complaints against Iago and the other containing details regarding the plot to kill Cassio.
Cassio tells how he found the handkerchief in his room, placed there by Iago. Roderigo’s letter also gives details concerning the plot to undermine Cassio’s position.
Cassio is to be made Governor of Cyprus and Othello must go with
Lodovico to Venice to meet his fate.
Othello speaks to the assembly recalling his service to Venice
and stating that he did not love wisely, but loved too well.
He recalls an incident when he engaged a Turk for beating a Venetian citizen, illustrating the action with his sword; he stabs himself and falls dead upon the bed.
Lodovico closes the play with a condemnation against Iago,
Othello’s possessions are taken by Gratiano his heir, and Lodovico gives orders for the punishment of Iago. Lodovico must now return to Venice to break the bad news.
The consequences of Iago’s plotting appear to have been
achieved. He has brought down Othello who has committed suicide, and Desdemona is also murdered.
It is important to realize the motive behind Othello’s deed in
It was not carried out through jealousy, despite Iago’s attempts to make Othello more jealous of his wife’s behavior. Neither did Othello hate Desdemona. Othello regarded the deed as a noble action for he says,
“An honorable murder, if you will;
for nought did I in hate, but all in honor.”
Therefore, Iago has failed to corrupt Othello’s soul and the
hope is that the couple will be together once more in a place where evil has no influence.
As is often the case, the villain at present has retained his
life while his schemes have brought about the deaths of many innocent people including his wife. He had successfully silenced Roderigo, but he had failed to kill Cassio. You may recall that
he challenged Roderigo’s endeavor by suggesting that he may not have the stomach to murder Cassio, yet he did not have the courage to stay and ensure that Cassio was killed. In addition to this
point, Emilia also turns against her husband realizing too late his evil intent. Therefore, Iago’s conspiracy is revealed because he failed to silence Cassio and Emilia.
There is much evil in this play emanating from Iago, but
Shakespeare is just as adept in bringing beauty and innocence to the play in contrast to the evil.
The opening speech of this scene by Othello as he looks on the
sleeping Desdemona should be read in full. As black signifies darkness and evil, so does white symbolize innocence and good. The evil that is in Othello has been placed there by Iago.
Some important lines from this speech are as follows:
“Yet I’ll not shed her blood,
nor scar that whitest skin of hers than snow
and smooth as monumental alabaster.”
Othello states here that he will not shed Desdemona’s blood or
mark her beauty, so he is resolved to strangling her.
“When I have pluck’d thy rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again,
it must needs wither” (he kisses her).
This shows us that Othello still loves his wife and he is bound
to kill her for honor’s sake.