Act 5 Scene 2

Holding a candle, Othello stands over the sleeping Desdemona and prepares to kill her. He bends down to kiss her once before he does the deed, almost debating whether to let her live. She awakes and he tells her to prepare to die and pray. Growing frightened, Desdemona asks her husband why he means to kill her, and Othello states that she has been unfaithful to him with Cassio, he has seen the proof in the handkerchief as well as Cassio confessing to it. 

Othello refuses to believe Desdemona’s denial of the charge, saying that Cassio has confessed but will speak no more, since he has been killed by Iago. Desdemona begins to weep, which Othello mistakes as weeping for Cassio, which only drives Othello into a greater rage. 

Wrestling with her as she begs to be allowed to live just a little longer, Othello finally succeeds in smothering his wife. Emilia calls from outside the door, and Othello confuses her cries with his wife’s and concludes that Desdemona is not yet dead. Thinking himself to be merciful, and not wanting to have his wife linger in pain, he smothers her again.

Othello draws the bed curtains to hide Desdemona’s body and lets Emilia in. Emilia informs Othello that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Othello asks if Cassio has been killed as well, and Emilia informs him that Cassio is alive. As Othello begins to realize that his plans have gone wrong Desdemona cries out that she has been murdered. She stays alive long enough to tell Emilia that she was not murdered but she committed suicide.

 She dies after this statement. Othello triumphantly and proudly admits to Emilia that he killed Desdemona despite not being suspected, and when she asks him why, Othello tells her that Iago opened his eyes to Desdemona’s falsehood. Unfazed by Othello’s threat that she ‘were best’ to remain silent, immediately unfazed by Othello Emilia calls out for help, bringing Montano, Graziano, and Iago to the scene.

As the truth of Iago’s villainy begins to come out through Emilia’s accusations, Othello falls weeping upon the bed that contains the body of his dead wife. Almost to himself, Graziano expresses relief that Brabantio is dead as the stresses of his daughter’s marriage have killed him. The first news the audience has heard of this, that he has not lived to see his daughter come to such a terrible end. Othello still clings to his belief in Iago’s truth and Desdemona’s guilt, mentioning the handkerchief and Cassio’s actions, even Cassio’s false confession. 

When Othello mentions the handkerchief, Emilia erupts with guilt, Iago is no longer certain that he can keep his plots hidden and forcefully attempts to silence her with his sword. Graziano stops him and Emilia explains how she found the handkerchief and gave it to Iago. Othello runs at Iago but is disarmed by Montano.

 In the commotion, Iago stabs his wife, who falls and is thought to be dying. Iago flees and is pursued by Montano and Graziano. Left alone onstage with the bodies of the two women, Othello searches for another sword. Emilia’s dying words provide eerie background music, as she sings a snatch of the song ‘Willow’, she tells Othello that Desdemona was loyal and loved him.

Lodovico and Montano enter with Iago, whom they’ve captured. Cassio also enters, carried in on a chair still injured but alive, which again shows Iago’s lies as Othello believed Cassio was dead. Othello immediately stabs Iago (who is injured but not dead) .Othello is disarmed by Lodovico’s men. Othello then begs to know why Iago did what he did, but Iago refuses to speak. Lodovico has found two letters in Roderigo’s pocket that reveal all of Iago’s schemes. This reveals all the truth behind the incidents throughout the play.

Othello begins to recount a memory of a time when he once defeated and stabbed a Muslim Turk who had killed a Venetian, as he describes the stabbing, he proceeds to take out a hidden dagger and stabs himself. 

He falls onto the bed next to Desdemona and dies (while giving her a final kiss), with all the lies being discovered he feels pure guilt and wasn’t able to live with his mistakes , Lodovico states that Graziano is Othello’s heir, and says that Cassio is to carry out the execution of Iago ( ironic as Iago was always desperate to have Cassio killed and even stabbed him in his leg ). Then he departs to carry the sad news to Venice of all the deaths of all notable people in the hierarchy.

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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