Foreshadowing in Othello

Foreshadowing Examples in Othello:

Act II - Scene I 2

"Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me, For making him egregiously an ass And practicing upon his peace and quiet Even to madness. 'Tis here, but yet confused: Knavery's plain face is never seen till used...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Iago sets the stage for the knavery of the rest of the act: a brawl in which Cassio will debase himself to the point of demotion. Keeping up his tradition of ending scenes and speeches with a rhymed couplet, Iago reminds us of his slippery identity. Recalling his motto of “I am not what I am,” Iago removes his mask and reveals his “plain face” only to the audience.

"Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me, For making him egregiously an ass And practicing upon his peace and quiet Even to madness. 'Tis here, but yet confused: Knavery's plain face is never seen till used...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Iago sets the stage for the knavery of the rest of the act: a brawl in which Cassio will debase himself to the point of demotion. Keeping up his tradition of ending scenes and speeches with a rhymed couplet, Iago reminds us of his slippery identity. Recalling his motto of “I am not what I am,” Iago removes his mask and reveals his “plain face” only to the audience.

"I'll pour this pestilence into his ear, That she repeals him for her body's lust; And by how much she strives to do him good, She shall undo her credit with the Moor...."   (Act II - Scene III)

Iago’s plot enters its next phase. His aim is for Cassio to plead to Desdemona for his position as lieutenant. Iago will then lie to Othello that Cassio is making sexual advances on Desdemona. The idea is that when Desdemona then approaches Othello to relay Cassio’s request, Othello will believe that Desdemona is helping Cassio out of mutual, adulterous infatuation. Once again, Iago constructs the next phase of his scheme at the act’s end so as to executes it in the next.

"A halter pardon him!..."   (Act IV - Scene II)

In a clever twist of language, Emilia turns “heaven” to “halter,” a synonym for “noose.” Emilia bolsters her role as a truth-teller here. She strengthens her conviction that there is a “villainous knave” responsible for the slander and foreshadows Iago’s fate.

"“The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree, Sing all a green willow; Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,(45) Sing willow, willow, willow. The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur'd her moans; Sing willow, willow, willow; Her salt tears fell from her, and soften'd the stones”— Lay by these:—(50) Sing willow, willow, willow” Prithee, hie thee; he'll come anon:— Sing all a green willow must be my garland. Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve Nay, that's not next. Hark, who is't that knocks?..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

The Willow Song sung by Desdemona predates Shakespeare’s play. The earliest record of the song can be found in a book of lute music from 1583. The original song was an eight-verse ballad about a man who dies because his lover abandons him. Elizabethan audiences familiar with the song would have understood the fatal foreshadowing at play.