Act 4 Scene 1

Iago and Othello enter and are discussing infidelity, Iago remarks that if he were to give his wife a handkerchief, it would be hers to do as she wished with it. This is him attempting to stir it up and anger Othello, he also tells Othello Cassio slept with Desdemona. Othello collapses and falls to the floor. Cassio enters to see an unconscious Othello; Cassio is concerned but Iago tells him to leave but that he will speak to him once Othello is well. 

Othello awakes from his fit, and Iago informs him that Cassio passed by during Othello’s fit, and that he will soon return to speak with Iago. Iago says that he will get Cassio to talk about the details of his affair with Desdemona, and that Othello should hide and watch Cassio’s face during the conversation. Othello agrees and proceeds to hide.

Alone with the audience Iago explains that he will actually speak with Cassio about Bianca (who’s love of Cassio never fails to make Cassio laugh). This laughter will only anger Othello more. The plan works perfectly as Othello becomes angrier, Bianca herself then enters, she accuses Cassio of having another mistress, throws the handkerchief at him, and exits. Othello recognizes the handkerchief to be that of Desdemona’s. Cassio races after Bianca. 

Othello tells Iago he’ll kill Cassio but isn’t sure if he wants to kill Desdemona due to her kindness and delicate nature. Iago convinces him otherwise; Othello says he will strangle Desdemona and Iago says he will kill Cassio.

Desdemona enters with Lodovico, who is carrying orders from the Duke of Venice that Othello is to return to Venice and leave Cassio behind to govern Cyprus. Desdemona mentions to Lodovico the falling out between Othello and Cassio, she states she wants to fix the problems, which enrages Othello, and he strikes Desdemona and commands her to leave. 

With this being so out of character as Othello is known for his great temperament. Lodovico asks Iago if Othello has gone mad as he is acting out of character. Iago refuses to answer but implies that something seems to be terribly wrong with Othello and advises Lodovico to watch over Othello to see if he can figure out what is wrong.

Plot Summary

Iago is angry that Othello (the general of the army), has promoted Cassio to be his lieutenant instead of him. Othello secretly marries Desdemona, the daughter of a senator in Venice (Brabantio). Iago therefore tells Desdemona’s father about the secret marriage to cause trouble for Othello.

Desdemona’s father makes a formal complaint about Othello’s behaviour to the Duke of Venice. His complaint is ignored and the Duke sends Othello to Cyprus to continue fighting in a war. Othello goes to Cyprus and takes his new wife Desdemona with him, together with Iago and Michael Cassio.

Iago encourages Cassio to get drunk whilst on duty. Cassio ends up in a drunken fight and is demoted from his position as lieutenant. Iago begins to plant seeds of suspicion in Othello’s mind about his wife’s relationship with Michael Cassio. Iago gets hold of a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona and hides it in Cassio’s room pretending it is proof of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness.

Desdemona pleads with Othello to give Cassio his job back. She does this innocently, but Othello takes this as proof of her feelings for Cassio. Iago continues to manipulate Othello to the point where Othello murders his new wife as punishment for her supposed unfaithfulness. Iago’s wife, Emilia, tells Othello that Iago has lied. Othello realises his tragic mistake and commits suicide over the body of his wife as Iago is arrested.

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