Act V - Scene II

[A bedchamber in the castle.]

Desdemona in bed asleep; a light burning.

Enter Othello.

OTHELLO:
It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul.
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!
It is the cause. Yet I'll not shed her blood,
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow
And smooth as monumental alabaster.(5)
Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light.
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me; but once put out thy light,(10)
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again,
It must needs wither; I'll smell it on the tree.(15)

[Kisses her.]

O, balmy breath, that dost almost persuade
Justice to break her sword! One more, one more;
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
And love thee after. One more, and this the last:
So sweet was ne'er so fatal. I must weep,(20)
But they are cruel tears; this sorrow's heavenly,
It strikes where it doth love. She wakes.
DESD:
Who's there? Othello?
OTHELLO:
Ay, Desdemona.
DESD:
Will you come to bed, my lord?(25)
OTHELLO:
Have you pray'd tonight, Desdemona?
DESD:
Ay, my lord.
OTHELLO:
If you bethink yourself of any crime
Unreconciled as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.(30)
DESD:
Alas, my lord, what may you mean by that?
OTHELLO:
Well, do it, and be brief; I will walk by:
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No, heaven forfend! I would not kill thy soul.
DESD:
Talk you of killing?(35)
OTHELLO:
Ay, I do.
DESD:
Then heaven have mercy on me!
OTHELLO:
Amen, with all my heart!
DESD:
If you say so, I hope you will not kill me.
OTHELLO:
Hum!(45)
DESD:
And yet I fear you, for you are fatal then
When your eyes roll so. Why I should fear I know not,
Since guiltiness I know not; but yet I feel I fear.
OTHELLO:
Think on thy sins.
DESD:
They are loves I bear to you.
OTHELLO:
Ay, and for that thou diest.
DESD:
That death's unnatural that kills for loving.
Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip?
Some bloody passion shakes your very frame:
These are portents; but yet I hope, I hope,(50)
They do not point on me.
OTHELLO:
Peace, and be still!
DESD:
I will so. What's the matter?
OTHELLO:
That handkerchief which I so loved and gave thee
Thou gavest to Cassio.(55)
DESD:
No, by my life and soul!
Send for the man, and ask him.
OTHELLO:
Sweet soul, take heed,
Take heed of perjury; thou are on thy deathbed.
DESD:
Ay, but not yet to die.(60)
OTHELLO:
Yes, presently:
Therefore confess thee freely of thy sin;
For to deny each article with oath
Cannot remove nor choke the strong conception
That I do groan withal. Thou art to die.(65)
DESD:
Then Lord have mercy on me!
OTHELLO:
I say, amen.
DESD:
And have you mercy too! I never did
Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio
But with such general warranty of heaven(70)
As I might love. I never gave him token.
OTHELLO:
By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in ‘s hand.
O perjured woman! Thou dost stone my heart,
And makest me call what I intend to do
A murder, which I thought a sacrifice:(75)
I saw the handkerchief.
DESD:
He found it then;
I never gave it him. Send for him hither;
Let him confess a truth.
OTHELLO:
He hath confess'd.(80)
DESD:
What, my lord?
OTHELLO:
That he hath used thee.
DESD:
How? unlawfully?
OTHELLO:
Ay.
DESD:
He will not say so.(85)
OTHELLO:
No, his mouth is stopp'd;
Honest Iago hath ta'en order for't.
DESD:
O, my fear interprets! What, is he dead?
OTHELLO:
Had all his hairs been lives, my great revenge
Had stomach for them all.(90)
DESD:
Alas, he is betray'd, and I undone!
OTHELLO:
Out, strumpet! Weep'st thou for him to my face?
DESD:
O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
OTHELLO:
Down, strumpet!
DESD:
Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight!(95)
OTHELLO:
Nay, if you strive—
DESD:
But half an hour!
OTHELLO:
Being done, there is no pause.
DESD:
But while I say one prayer!
OTHELLO:
It is too late.(100)

[He smothers her.]

EMILIA:
Without. My lord, my lord! What, ho! my lord, my
lord!
OTHELLO:
What noise is this? Not dead? not yet quite dead?
I that am cruel am yet merciful;
I would not have thee linger in thy pain. So, so.(105)
EMILIA:
Without. What, ho! my lord, my lord!
OTHELLO:
Who's there?
EMILIA:
Without. O, good my lord, I would speak a word
with you!
OTHELLO:
Yes, 'tis Emilia. By and by. She's dead.(110)
'Tis like she comes to speak of Cassio's death.
The noise was here. Ha! no more moving?
Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were't good?
I think she stirs again. No. What's best to do?
If she come in, she'll sure speak to my wife.(115)
My wife! My wife! What wife? I have no wife.
O, insupportable! O heavy hour!
Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
Should yawn at alteration.(120)
EMILIA:
Without. I do beseech you
That I may speak with you, O, good my lord!
OTHELLO:
I had forgot thee. O, come in, Emilia.
Soft, by and by. Let me the curtains draw.
Where art thou?(125)

[Unlocks the door.]

Enter Emilia.

What's the matter with thee now?
EMILIA:
O, my good lord, yonder's foul murders done!
OTHELLO:
What, now?
EMILIA:
But now, my lord.
OTHELLO:
It is the very error of the moon;(130)
She comes more nearer earth than she was wont
And makes men mad.
EMILIA:
Cassio, my lord, hath kill'd a young Venetian
Call'd Roderigo.
OTHELLO:
Roderigo kill'd?(135)
And Cassio kill'd?
EMILIA:
No, Cassio is not kill'd.
OTHELLO:
Not Cassio kill'd! Then murder 's out of tune,
And sweet revenge grows harsh.
DESD:
O, falsely, falsely murdered!(140)
EMILIA:
Alas, what cry is that?
OTHELLO:
That? what?
EMILIA:
Out, and alas! That was my lady's voice.
Help! help, ho! help! O lady, speak again!
Sweet Desdemona! O sweet mistress, speak!(145)
DESD:
A guiltless death I die.
EMILIA:
O, who hath done this deed?
DESD:
Nobody; I myself. Farewell;
Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell!

She dies.

OTHELLO:
Why, how should she be murdered?(150)
EMILIA:
Alas, who knows?
OTHELLO:
You heard her say herself, it was not I.
EMILIA:
She said so; I must needs report the truth.
OTHELLO:
She's like a liar gone to burning hell;
'Twas I that kill'd her.(155)
EMILIA:
O, the more angel she,
And you the blacker devil!
OTHELLO:
She turn'd to folly, and she was a whore.
EMILIA:
Thou dost belie her, and thou art a devil.
OTHELLO:
She was false as water.(160)
EMILIA:
Thou art rash as fire, to say
That she was false. O, she was heavenly true!
OTHELLO:
Cassio did top her; ask thy husband else.
O, I were damn'd beneath all depth in hell,
But that I did proceed upon just grounds(165)
To this extremity. Thy husband knew it all.
EMILIA:
My husband!
OTHELLO:
Thy husband.
EMILIA:
That she was false to wedlock?
OTHELLO:
Ay, with Cassio. Nay, had she been true,(170)
If heaven would make me such another world
Of one entire and perfect chrysolite,
I'ld not have sold her for it.
EMILIA:
My husband!
OTHELLO:
Ay, 'twas he that told me first:(175)
An honest man he is, and hates the slime
That sticks on filthy deeds.
EMILIA:
My husband?
OTHELLO:
What needs this iteration, woman? I say thy
husband.(180)
EMILIA:
O mistress, villainy hath made mocks with love!
My husband say that she was false!
OTHELLO:
He, woman;
I say thy husband. Dost understand the word?
My friend, thy husband, honest, honest Iago.(185)
EMILIA:
If he say so, may his pernicious soul
Rot half a grain a day! He lies to the heart.
She was too fond of her most filthy bargain.
OTHELLO:
Ha!
EMILIA:
Do thy worst;(190)
This deed of thine is no more worthy heaven
Than thou wast worthy her.
OTHELLO:
Peace, you were best.
EMILIA:
Thou hast not half that power to do me harm
As I have to be hurt. O gull! O dolt!(195)
As ignorant as dirt! Thou hast done a deed—
I care not for thy sword; I'll make thee known,
Though I lost twenty lives. Help! help, ho! help!
The Moor hath kill'd my mistress! Murder, murder!

Enter Montano, Gratiano, Iago, and others.

MONTANO:
What is the matter? How now, general?(200)
EMILIA:
O, are you come, Iago? You have done well,
That men must lay their murders on your neck.
GRATIANO:
What is the matter?
EMILIA:
Disprove this villain, if thou be'st a man:
He says thou told'st him that his wife was false;(205)
I know thou didst not, thou'rt not such a villain.
Speak, for my heart is full.
IAGO:
I told him what I thought, and told no more
Than what he found himself was apt and true.
EMILIA:
But did you ever tell him she was false?(210)
IAGO:
I did.
EMILIA:
You told a lie, an odious, damned lie;
Upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie!
She false with Cassio? Did you say with Cassio?
IAGO:
With Cassio, mistress. Go to, charm your tongue.(215)
EMILIA:
I will not charm my tongue; I am bound to speak.
My mistress here lies murdered in her bed.
ALL:
O heavens forfend!
EMILIA:
And your reports have set the murder on.
OTHELLO:
Nay, stare not, masters; it is true indeed.(220)
GRATIANO:
'Tis a strange truth.
MONTANO:
O monstrous act!
EMILIA:
Villainy, villainy, villainy!
I think upon't, I think, I smell't, O villainy!
I thought so then. I'll kill myself for grief:(225)
O villainy, villainy!
IAGO:
What, are you mad? I charge you, get you home.
EMILIA:
Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak;
'Tis proper I obey him, but not now.
Perchance, Iago, I will ne'er go home.(230)
OTHELLO:
O! O! O!

Othello falls on the bed.

EMILIA:
Nay, lay thee down and roar;
For thou hast kill'd the sweetest innocent
That e'er did lift up eye.
OTHELLO:
[Rises.] O, she was foul!(235)
I scarce did know you, uncle; there lies your niece,
Whose breath indeed these hands have newly stopp'd.
I know this act shows horrible and grim.
GRATIANO:
Poor Desdemon! I am glad thy father's dead:
Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief(240)
Shore his old thread in twain; did he live now,
This sight would make him do a desperate turn,
Yea, curse his better angel from his side,
And fall to reprobation.
OTHELLO:
'Tis pitiful, but yet Iago knows(245)
That she with Cassio hath the act of shame
A thousand times committed. Cassio confess'd it,
And she did gratify his amorous works
With that recognizance and pledge of love
Which I first gave her. I saw it in his hand:(250)
It was a handkerchief, an antique token
My father gave my mother.
EMILIA:
O heaven! O heavenly powers!
IAGO:
’Zounds! Hold your peace.
EMILIA:
'Twill out, 'twill. I peace!(255)
No, I will speak as liberal as the north;
Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,
All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak.
IAGO:
Be wise, and get you home.
EMILIA:
I will not.
GRATIANO:
Fie! Your sword upon a woman?(260)
EMILIA:
O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak'st of
I found by fortune and did give my husband;
For often with a solemn earnestness,
More than indeed belong'd to such a trifle,(265)
He begg'd of me to steal it.
IAGO:
Villainous whore!
EMILIA:
She give it Cassio? No, alas, I found it,
And I did give't my husband.
IAGO:
Filth, thou liest!(270)
EMILIA:
By heaven, I do not, I do not, gentlemen.
O murderous coxcomb! What should such a fool
Do with so good a wife?
OTHELLO:
Are there not stones in heaven
But what serve for thunder? Precious villain!(275)

The Moor [Othello] runs at Iago.

Iago kills his wife.

GRATIANO:
The woman falls; sure, he hath kill'd his wife.
EMILIA:
Ay, ay! O, lay me by my mistress’ side.

Exit Iago.

GRATIANO:
He's gone, but his wife's kill'd.
MONTANO:
'Tis a notorious villain. Take you this weapon,
Which I have here recover'd from the Moor:(280)
Come, guard the door without; let him not pass,
But kill him rather. I'll after that same villain,
For 'tis a damned slave.

Exit Montano and Gratiano.

OTHELLO:
I am not valiant neither,
But every puny whipster gets my sword.(285)
But why should honor outlive honesty?
Let it go all.
EMILIA:
What did thy song bode, lady?
Hark, canst thou hear me? I will play the swan,
And die in music.(290)
[Sings.] Willow, willow, willow.
Moor, she was chaste; she loved thee, cruel Moor;
So come my soul to bliss, as I speak true;
So speaking as I think, I die, I die.

She dies.

OTHELLO:
I have another weapon in this chamber;(295)
O, here it is. Uncle, I must come forth.
GRATIANO:
[Within.] If thou attempt it, it will cost thee dear:
Thou hast no weapon, and perforce must suffer.
OTHELLO:
Look in upon me then, and speak with me,
Or, naked as I am, I will assault thee.(300)

Enter Gratiano.

GRATIANO:
What is the matter?
OTHELLO:
Behold, I have a weapon;
A better never did itself sustain
Upon a soldier's thigh. I have seen the day
That with this little arm and this good sword(305)
I have made my way through more impediments
Than twenty times your stop. But, O vain boast!
Who can control his fate? 'Tis not so now.
Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd;
Here is my journey's end, here is my butt(310)
And very seamark of my utmost sail.
Do you go back dismay'd? 'Tis a lost fear:
Man but a rush against Othello's breast,
And he retires. Where should Othello go?
Now, how dost thou look now? O ill-starr'd wench!(315)
Pale as thy smock! When we shall meet at compt,
This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven,
And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl
Even like thy chastity. O cursed, cursed slave!
Whip me, ye devils,(320)
From the possession of this heavenly sight!
Blow me about in winds! Roast me in sulphur!
Wash me in steepdown gulfs of liquid fire!
O Desdemon! dead, Desdemon! dead!
O! O! O!(325)

Enter Lodovico, Montano, Iago, and Officers, Cassio in a chair.

LODOVICO:
Where is this rash and most unfortunate man?
OTHELLO:
That's he that was Othello. Here I am.
LODOVICO:
Where is that viper? Bring the villain forth.
OTHELLO:
I look down towards his feet; but that's a fable.
If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee.(330)
LODOVICO:
Wrench his sword from him.
IAGO:
I bleed, sir, but not kill'd.
OTHELLO:
I am not sorry neither. I'ld have thee live,
For, in my sense, 'tis happiness to die.
LODOVICO:
O thou Othello, that wert once so good,(335)
What shall be said to thee?
OTHELLO:
Why, anything;
An honorable murderer, if you will,
For nought did I in hate, but all in honor.
LODOVICO:
This wretch hath part confess'd his villainy.(340)
Did you and he consent in Cassio's death?
OTHELLO:
Ay.
CASSIO:
Dear general, I never gave you cause.
OTHELLO:
I do believe it, and I ask your pardon.
Will you, I pray, demand that demidevil(345)
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?
IAGO:
Demand me nothing; what you know: you know.
From this time forth I never will speak word.
LODOVICO:
What, not to pray?
GRATIANO:
Torments will ope your lips.(350)
OTHELLO:
Well, thou dost best.
LODOVICO:
Sir, you shall understand what hath befall'n,
Which, as I think, you know not. Here is a letter
Found in the pocket of the slain Roderigo,
And here another. The one of them imports(355)
The death of Cassio to be undertook
By Roderigo.
OTHELLO:
O villain!
CASSIO:
Most heathenish and most gross!
LODOVICO:
Now here's another discontented paper,(360)
Found in his pocket too; and this, it seems,
Roderigo meant to have sent this damned villain;
But that, belike, Iago in the interim
Came in and satisfied him.
OTHELLO:
O the pernicious caitiff!(365)
How came you, Cassio, by that handkerchief
That was my wife's?
CASSIO:
I found it in my chamber;
And he himself confess'd but even now
That there he dropp'd it for a special purpose(370)
Which wrought to his desire.
OTHELLO:
O fool! fool! fool!
CASSIO:
There is besides in Roderigo's letter,
How he upbraids Iago, that he made him
Brave me upon the watch, whereon it came(375)
That I was cast. And even but now he spake
After long seeming dead, Iago hurt him,
Iago set him on.
LODOVICO:
You must forsake this room, and go with us:
Your power and your command is taken off,(380)
And Cassio rules in Cyprus. For this slave,
If there be any cunning cruelty
That can torment him much and hold him long,
It shall be his. You shall close prisoner rest,
Till that the nature of your fault be known(385)
To the Venetian state. Come, bring away.
OTHELLO:
Soft you; a word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they know't.
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,(390)
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand,(395)
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinal gum. Set you down this;(400)
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog
And smote him, thus.(405)

Stabs himself.

LODOVICO:
O bloody period!
GRATIANO:
All that's spoke is marr'd.
OTHELLO:
I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee. No way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.

He dies.

CASSIO:
This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon;(410)
For he was great of heart.
LODOVICO:
O Spartan dog,
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea!
Look on the tragic loading of this bed;
This is thy work. The object poisons sight;(415)
Let it be hid. Gratiano, keep the house,
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
For they succeed on you. To you, Lord Governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain,
The time, the place, the torture. O, enforce it!(420)
Myself will straight aboard, and to the state
This heavy act with heavy heart relate.

Exeunt.

THE END

Footnotes

  1. In these lines directed to Iago, Lodovico widens the scope of the tragedy. He compares Iago’s evil acts to “anguish, hunger, or the sea!” In this use, the word “fell” means cruel or malevolent, and it comes from the same Anglo-French root as “felon.” Shakespeare turns the play’s attention inward with the line “This is thy work.” On one level, the “work” refers to the bodies of Othello, Desdemona, and Emilia. On the another level, the “work” is the play itself. Iago is responsible for both.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Gratiano’s famous line gets at one of the core problems explored in Othello. Throughout the play, language proves to be deceptive and insufficient. From Iago’s lies to Othello’s cryptic final utterances, words consistently sidestep the truth or fall short of it. Communication between characters often fails. For Othello and Desdemona, such failures bear fatal consequences.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The “fable” of Iago’s feet refers to his metaphorical nature as a serpent, as suggested by Lodovico. Othello equates Iago’s snake-like character to that of “a devil” who cannot be killed. This equation originates in the Bible, wherein the devil appears in the form of a serpent. Much like the serpent in the garden of Eden, Iago is a tempter and corrupter.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Just as Iago’s famous line “I am not what I am,” Othello’s alludes to the Bible passage in which God utters “I am that I am.” Othello is dissociated from himself, pointing to a self that “was Othello.” This dissociation of self marks his fall from grace. Where Othello once had a sense of divine wholeness, now his identity has become separated into a past and present self.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In his lament over Desdemona’s death, Othello resorts to wordless moans. The letter “O” is of critical importance here. As the first letter of Othello’s name, the cry of “O!” signifies that Othello equates his identity with his own suffering.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Having accepted his guilt, Othello calls for perdition. In this passage, he offers up images of eternal punishment in hell. As some scholars speculate, Shakespeare may well have read Dante’s work. The scenes Othello describes align with Dante’s vision of hell in Inferno.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Othello understands that he has reached the end of his life. The word “butt” takes on two meanings here. First, a “butt” refers to the end, or bottom, of an object. Second, a “butt” is a target, which in this context suggests the scorn and hatred Othello will receive for his actions. A “seamark” is a navigation mark to help guide sailors home on their journeys. Othello can sense his own end.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. In her final words, Emilia reiterates The Willow Song that Desdemona sang in Act IV. This reiteration both touches upon Othello’s guilt and expresses Emilia’s undying affection for her mistress. In her final breaths, Emilia believes that her truthfulness will lead to salvation and her “soul to bliss.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. As the play comes to a close, Emilia’s great importance becomes clear. Emilia is the truth-teller, the sole character capable of unraveling Iago’s schemes. In this way, Emilia represents the play’s heart. She is the one who sees clearly amid the confusion created by Iago.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Throughout the play, Emilia champions the perspective of women, who are consistently accused and derided by men. In this moment, Emilia makes the bold move of disobeying her husband in order to share the truth. Emilia understands that there is a finality to this moment since she admits that she “will ne’er go home.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. By “most filthy bargain,” Emilia refers to Desdemona’s marriage to Othello. The word “bargain” frames the relationship as a financial transaction, specifically an unbalanced one. Emilia seems to think that Desdemona received the worse side of the deal.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. It is important that Othello compares Desdemona’s value to that of a “world/Of one entire and perfect chrysolite.” Shakespeare selects chrysolite because it is a green mineral, thus involving a connotation of envy. Envy is the very reason Othello believes the lies about Desdemona’s adultery in the first place.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Desdemona’s final act is to protect Othello from the guilt of the murder. Her desire to protect him despite his actions represents one of the play’s most tragic moments. Othello can not forgive Desdemona’s alleged adultery, but Desdemona can forgive his murder of her.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Having heard the news that Cassio has not died, Othello realizes that his murder of Desdemona is premature. After all, Cassio knows the truth of the adultery (or lack thereof). Shakespeare plays on the old saying that “revenge is sweet,” giving its flavor a sour turn.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Shakespeare uses the movements of the moon as a metaphor for the relationships between men and women in the play. Shakespeare casts the moon as a “she” whose closeness to the earth drives “men mad.” The irony is that the events of the play are not caused by the “error” of women but rather by the schemes of men, chiefly Iago.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, an eclipse of the sun is an omen of misfortune on earth. As Othello reflects, the “affrighted globe/Should yawn at alteration.” The alteration—or change—Othello speaks of is Desdemona’s death. His choice to discuss her death on a cosmic scale reflects the depth of his sorrow.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. In this tragic moment, Othello forgets that Desdemona has died. His sudden realization of the truth rings out in a line of ten monosyllabic words. This metrical feature gives the line a quality of fullness and forcefulness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Othello claims that he would take Cassio’s life as many times as Cassio’s number of hairs. On one level, this serves as an exaggerated metaphor for Othello’s anger; on another, the symbolism of hair is important. Hair is often a symbol for virility and vitality. Considering Cassio’s crime of adultery, it makes sense that Othello targets the man’s hair as he imagines his revenge.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. At this point, Othello commits to his course of action. He will kill Desdemona, no matter the evidence she offers in her own defense. The metaphor of “chok[ing]” the conception of her guilt adds a connotation of violence to the exchange. He also foreshadows the method by which he kills her.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. As Desdemona looks back on her actions, her only misdeed was her decision to marry Othello. Those “loves” she bears to Othello are sinful in the sense that their marriage is considered scandalous to many. The tragedy here is that her choice to commit the sin of loving Othello has led to her undoing.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. In this chilling exchange, Othello offers Desdemona a chance to repent for her actions. The conversation is built on a tense dramatic irony, because Othello does not understand, as the audience does, that Desdemona is innocent.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. The meaning of "So sweet was ne'er so fatal" is not entirely clear. Othello either refers to Desdemona's sweetness, which Othello thinks led to adultery and her eventual murder, or the sweetness of Othello's parting kisses before he suffocates her.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Othello argues that he was driven to suffocate Desdemona because he "loved not wisely but too well," meaning he simply got carried away after hearing the (erroneous) charges made against her. He believes he is guilty of loving too deeply, as opposed to being jealous, rash, and violent.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. The word "chaste" is a beautiful adjective to apply to the stars. They seem cold and isolated, as well as desirable but infinitely unattainable. Since Othello is inside a room, he is presumably looking out a window. Perhaps he does not even look at the sleeping Desdemona until he says, "but once put out thy light..." At that point he would have to turn and look at her. If this is what Shakespeare intended, then the viewer would perhaps assume that Othello was not only reluctant to kill his wife but was even afraid to look at her. He looks at the stars, he looks at the flaming torch--and finally, he turns and looks at the woman he loves and intends to murder.

    Why would Othello be looking up at the stars? He is not looking at the stars. He is looking up at heaven. Because he knows he is about to commit the worst possible sin. He is trying to justify his cause to God.

    — William Delaney
  25. Faced with death, Desdemona realizes how precious every moment of existence can be. She starts by asking to be banished rather than killed. Then she reduces her request and asks just to live for one more night. Then when Othello remains adamant, she asks for "But half an hour!" And finally she pleads, "But while I say one prayer!" In other words, she is just begging for a minute or two more of precious life before entering eternal darkness. Shakespeare had an uncanny ability to put himself in his different characters' places. He can be Othello and then become Desdemona, moving back and forth in his imagination as he creates his moving dialogue.

    — William Delaney
  26. There is a weakness in the plot which has often been discussed by critics. How could Othello bring himself to murder his wife on such flimsy evidence as a handkerchief? Here is what Somerset Maugham, always the rational and skeptical man, says about the matter in his very interesting and astute work A Writer's Notebook:

    I don’t know why critics expect writers always to do as well as they should have done. The writer seldom does what he wants to; he does the best he can. Shakespearian scholars would save themselves many a headache if when they come across something in the plays that is obviously unsatisfactory, instead of insisting against all reason that it is nothing of the kind, they admitted that here and there Shakespeare tripped. There is no reason that I can see to suppose that he was not well aware that the motivation in certain of the plays is so weak as to destroy the illusion. Why should the critics say that he didn’t care? I should have said that there was evidence that he did. Why should he have put into Othello’s mouth those lines beginning *That handkerchief did an Egyptian to my mother give . . . *unless it was because he was aware that the episode of the handkerchief was too thin to pass muster? I think it would save a lot of trouble to conclude that he tried to think of something better, and just couldn’t.

    — William Delaney
  27. This very simple metaphor, so strikingly appropriate to the occasion, is characteristic of Shakespeare's poetry. He typically favored common, natural imagery, and such imagery would often echo thoughts that were familiar to most of us, although we have never put them into words. Most of us have reflected that when we have plucked a beautiful flower we have actually killed it. We can break the stem but we have no power to undo the damage we have done.

    What is so moving about this scene in which Othello murders Desdemona is that he is killing the thing he loves best in all the world. In fact, he later tells Emelia:

    If heaven would make me such another world
    Of one entire and perfect chrysolite,
    I'ld not have sold her for it.

    This scene in Othello calls to mind Oscar Wilde's poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," which contains the following stanzas:

    Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
    By each let this be heard,
    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word,
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!

    Some kill their love when they are young,
    And some when they are old;
    Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
    Some with the hands of Gold:
    The kindest use a knife, because
    The dead so soon grow cold.

    Some love too little, some too long,
    Some sell, and others buy;
    Some do the deed with many tears,
    And some without a sigh:
    For each man kills the thing he loves,
    Yet each man does not die.

    — William Delaney
  28. Iago's villainy drives the action throughout the entire play, yet many people have wondered about his motivation. Here at the very end he is refusing to explain himself even under the threat of torture. 

    — William Delaney
  29. This is an example of enjambment. The preceding line runs into the following one without giving the speaker a logical place to take a breath. Notice how Othello inhales deeply after he says, "I'll smell it [Desdemona's fragrant breath] on the tree." Then the next line is crammed with words which force the actor to expell all his breath before coming to "Justice to break her sword," so that his voice will almost automatically crack as he has to struggle not to inhale, as if he is bursting into tears at the thought of administering "justice" to his wife. The words intentionally calculated to force the actor to use up all his breath in one line are: "O," "balmy," "breath," "dost," "almost" "persuade." The actor would probably choke on the word "Justice" and then inhale before continuing with "to break her sword."

    — William Delaney
  30. This is specious reasoning and rationalization. Othello is not concerned about any "betrayal" of other men, but he can't stand the thought of what Desdemona might do with "more men" if he were to divorce her or separate from her and allow her complete freedom to indulge in the sort of dissolute behavior of which he wrongly suspects her. Othello is characterized as a man who is governed by his emotions rather than by his reason.

    — William Delaney