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Othello Commentary - Act V.

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Act V. Scene I. - Cypress. A Street.

Iago: "This is the night / That either makes me or fordoes me quite."

Iago and Roderigo wait in a street to ambush Cassio. Iago tells Roderigo how to kill him. Iago does not care which ends up dead. Iago is worried about Roderigo's increasing questioning about what happened to jewels that were given to him to pass on to Desdemona...

Roderigo attacks Cassio but Cassio injures Roderigo instead. Iago stabs Cassio, wounding him in the leg. Othello hearing Cassio's cries is pleased, announcing that he will soon kill Desdemona.

Lodovico, Gratiano and Iago reappear, Iago claiming total innocence to Cassio's injuries even though he inflicted them.

Seizing Roderigo, Iago stabs and wounds him "in revenge" for wounding his "friend" Cassio. Gratiano and Lodovico tend to Cassio's wound.

Bianca, Cassio's mistress arrives, Iago cleverly laying suspicion for Cassio's injuries on his innocent mistress, making Iago less suspicious...

The final act begins with Iago and Roderigo, waiting in a street for Cassio. Iago encourages Roderigo to kill Cassio saying, "Here, stand behind this bulk; straight will he come: / Wear thy good rapier bare, and put it home" (stand behind this bulk, Cassio will come straight towards you. Draw or bear your rapier and put it home into Cassio), (Line 1).

Iago assures Roderigo that he is behind him one hundred percent. "Quick, quick;" Iago urges, "fear nothing; I'll be at thy elbow" or by his side, he says (Line 3).

Roderigo, still uncertain, asks that Iago be near him, in case he "may miscarry in 't" or fail his task (Line 6).

Iago tells Roderigo to "be bold, and take thy [your] stand" (Line 7).

Iago now explains that he cares little about whether Roderigo kills Cassio or not saying "whether he kill Cassio, / Or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, / Every way makes my gain:" (Line 12). Iago also explains that he has a problem in Roderigo since he may start asking for his jewels back.

Roderigo wants some accounting of the many jewels he gave to Iago as gifts for Desdemona which never made it to her since Iago never sent them on.

Iago says that if Cassio survives then he will have "a daily beauty in his life / That makes me ugly;" (Line 19).

Cassio now approaches and Roderigo immediately lunges to attack him. This fails, Roderigo being wounded by Cassio who drew his sword on him (Line 23).

Seeing Cassio survive Roderigo's attack, Iago surprises Cassio from behind and wounds him in the leg before exiting once more (Lines 23-27).

"I am maim' d [maimed, wounded] for ever. Help, ho! murder! murder!" Cassio screams before falling (Line 27).

Othello at some distance hears Cassio's voice, remarking that "Iago keeps his word" (Line 28), by which Othello means Iago has kept his promise to kill Cassio.

Othello now sings Iago's praises, describing him as brave, honest and just (Line 32).

Othello remarks that he will soon perform his own dark deed (killing Desdemona) saying, "strumpet, I come! Forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are blotted; / Thy [your] bed lust-stain'd shall with lust's blood be spotted" (Line 36).

Lodovico and Gratiano now enter at some distance, also hearing Cassio's cries of murder.

Iago joins them carrying a light and asking innocently whose voice it is that cries murder when Iago knows all too well that he was the one who wounded Cassio (Line 48).

Iago now tends to the wounded Cassio who does not realize he was stabbed in the leg by Iago (Lines 54-60). Iago even criticizes Lodovico and Gratiano for standing around and not doing anything while his friend Cassio suffers!

Iago asks who did this (we already know!) and learning from Cassio that Roderigo was "one of them" (Line 61), Iago immediately calls Roderigo a "murderous slave!" and a "villain!" before stabbing him (Line 62).

Roderigo realizing he has been betrayed, screams "O damn'd Iago! O inhuman dog!" (Line 63).

Having stabbed Roderigo in the dark (Line 62), Iago hypocritically criticizes Roderigo by saying "Kill men i' [in] the dark!" suggesting that this is extremely dishonorable.

Amazingly Iago, hardly a good man, questions Gratiano and Lodovico whether they are men of good or evil and learning they are good, immediately binds Cassio's bleeding leg with his shirt (Lines 64-73).

Bianca (Cassio's mistress) now enters, Iago using her presence to suggest she may have had something to do with tonight's violence (Line 74).

First Iago declares his suspicions, saying, "I do suspect this trash [Bianca] / To be a party in this injury" (I suspect this trash has something to do with Cassio's injury), (Line 85).

Next, despite Bianca's obvious grief for her wounded Cassio, Iago asks Bianca "What malice was between you?" and his friend Cassio (Line 102).

Iago then says to Bianca "What! look you pale?" (why do you look so pale?), (Line 104) at which point Roderigo and Cassio are borne off or carried away.

Finally, Iago tells Emilia who arrives (Line 110) that Cassio's wound was caused by Bianca, after all Cassio did just have dinner with Bianca which Bianca confirms (Line 119).

With Emilia convinced, Iago tells her to tell Othello what has happened (Line 123).

Left alone again, Iago says this night will either make his fortunes or break them...

Iago: "This is the night / That either makes me or fordoes me quite" (Line 129).

Act V. Scene II. - A Bedchamber in the Castle. Desdemona in bed asleep. A light burning.

Othello: "When I have pluck'd the rose, I cannot give it vital growth again, / It needs must wither: I'll smell it on the tree."

Othello enters Desdemona's bedchamber (bedroom) trying to convince himself that he is killing her for her own good. He kisses his still asleep wife one last time. Desdemona awakens, but Othello will still kill her, telling her to pray so her soul will not die when she does.

Desdemona again asks what wrong she has committed, Othello telling her that she gave Cassio his handkerchief, by which he means he thinks she had an affair with him. Desdemona pleads her innocence, telling Othello to bring Cassio over to prove she did not give away her handkerchief. Othello says he confessed and is dead, Desdemona's fear and surprise prompting Othello to believe she does care for him. Othello kills Desdemona.

Emilia's banging on the door outside cannot stop this. Later Emilia is let in, revealing Iago has killed Roderigo and Desdemona who was thought dead, murmurs her last breaths but loyally does not say Othello killed her. Othello tells Emilia he killed her and Emilia despite Iago's attempts to remove her reveals the truth about the handkerchief; she found it, and then gave it to Iago. Iago now in trouble, stabs his wife Emilia and escapes. Emilia dies, singing the "Willow Song" whilst criticizing Othello's foolishness.

Lodovico, Montano, Cassio and the now captured prisoner Iago soon appear, Othello stabbing Iago but not killing him before having his sword removed. Lodovico is disappointed that Othello, a man so honorable has reverted to acting like a slave. Othello tries to argue that killing his wife was a noble action but it falls on deaf ears. Lodovico learns that Othello and Iago plotted Cassio's death.

Lodovico reveals letters in the dead Roderigo's pocket proving Cassio was to be killed by Roderigo. Iago proudly confirms that Cassio found Desdemona's handkerchief because Iago placed it to be found. Othello, realizing what he has done, kills himself with a concealed weapon and lies himself on top of his wife. Cassio is placed in charge of Iago and Lodovico leaves to discuss this sad matter with others abroad...

Desdemona is asleep as Othello enters their bedchamber. Othello is now completely focused on the task before him, speaking in long, measured, controlled sentences, not the short urgent sentences we would expect of an angry, emotionally crazed and driven man.

Othello by his language is calm and resolved. He speaks in the future tense, saying "I'll not shed her blood," suggesting a finality to his actions but adds that "she must die," or "else she'll betray more men", perhaps an attempt to suppress his own guilt for what he is about to do (Line 6).

Othello before kissing Desdemona one last time, explains that "When I have pluck'd the rose, / I cannot give it vital growth again, / It needs must wither:" (Line 15).

With her bedchamber candle already extinguished (Line 7), Desdemona wakes up, asking, "Who's there? Othello?" (Line 22). Learning it is Othello; she calms and asks Othello "Will you come to bed, my lord?" (Line 24).

Othello asks Desdemona whether she has prayed (Line 25) tonight, telling her to reconcile any crime she may have committed (Line 28).

Desdemona now asks what Othello means by that (Line 29) and Othello tells her to do her prayers quickly since "I would not kill thy [your] unprepared spirit;" adding that "I would not kill thy [your] soul" (Line 30).

Desdemona now asks Othello whether he is talking of killing to which Othello replies "Ay, I do" (Line 32).

Desdemona now terrified, cries "Then heaven / Have mercy on me!" (Line 35).

Desdemona tells Othello that she fears him "When your eyes roll so" (Line 38) yet she can not understand why she fears Othello; she has committed no wrong? (Lines 37-38).

Othello replies "Think on thy [your] sins" (Line 39). Desdemona explains that "They are loves I bear to you" (Line 40) and now Othello commands Desdemona to be still. Desdemona saying, "I will so. What's the matter?" (Line 47).

Othello tells Desdemona that she has given the handkerchief he lovingly gave to Desdemona to Cassio. Desdemona says no, asking Othello to send for Cassio and ask him himself.

Othello now tells Desdemona that "thou'rt [you are] on thy [your] death-bed" (you are on your deathbed / tonight you will die), (Line 50).

Desdemona says yes but "not yet to die" (Line 51).

Othello tells her to confess her sins adding "Thou [you] art [are going] to die" (Line 56).

Desdemona again pleads for mercy, telling Othello she "never lov'd Cassio" (Line 59) but Othello is convinced, saying he saw "my handkerchief in's [in his] hand" repeating again "I saw the handkerchief" (Line 65).

Desdemona says that Cassio must have found it then, saying "I never gave it [to] him", again telling Othello to speak to Cassio to learn this truth (Line 67).

Othello now surprises Desdemona by saying, "He hath confess'd" (he has confessed), (Line 68). Desdemona asks to what?

Othello now tells her "That he hath us'd [used] thee [you]" (Line 70).

Desdemona asks how, Othello explaining that Cassio can no longer speak, Cassio has seen to it (killed him), (Line 72).

Desdemona is surprised, saying "What! is he dead?" (Line 73).

Othello explains that he is and now Desdemona says something that angers Othello.

Desdemona: "Alas! he is betray'd [betrayed] and I undone" (Line 76).

Hearing this Othello exclaims, "Out, strumpet! Weep'st [weep] thou for him to my face? (Out strumpet! Would you dare weep for him before me?), (Line 77).

Fearing danger, Desdemona pleads " O! banish me, my lord, but kill me not!" (Line 78).

Infuriated, Othello tells her "Down, strumpet!" (Line 79), Desdemona pleading that if Othello must kill her, let it be tomorrow so she may live tonight (Line 80). Othello, however only replies "Being done, there is no pause" by which he means his actions can no longer be delayed (Line 82).

Desdemona tries one last time to stall Othello by asking to say one prayer first, but Othello, saying, "It is too late" (Line 83) proceeds to smother or suffocate Desdemona...

Emilia now yells to Othello, "My lord, my lord!" (Line 84) but Othello ignores her, determined to finish strangling the life from his wife.

Finally, Emilia's shouting receives Othello's attention, and Othello ponders whether to let Emilia in; she will certainly want to speak with his wife, telling her about Cassio's death.

Noticing that his wife is "Still as the grave" (Line 93), Othello again worries what Emilia will say to his wife before remembering he has no wife; she is after all dead he reminds himself in a confused dialogue that vividly makes clear that Othello is no longer coherent but rather crazed and disorganized in thought (Lines 89 -103).

With his wife apparently dead, Othello asks Emilia "What's the matter with thee [you] now?" (Line 104). Emilia tells Othello that Cassio, her lord has killed a young Venetian called Roderigo. Learning that Cassio was not killed, Othello says "murder's out of tune, / And sweet revenge grows harsh" (Line 113).

Desdemona, whom was thought dead, now murmurs "O! falsely, falsely murder'd" (murdered), (Line 114). Noticing it is the cry of "my lady's voice:", Emilia again panics begging her Desdemona to speak again. This Desdemona does, proclaiming her innocence by saying "A guiltless death I die" (Line 120).

Emilia asks Desdemona who "hath done this deed?' (Who killed you) and Desdemona again shows her true love for Othello by hiding Othello's guilt by saying "Nobody; I myself; farewell:" asking Emilia to "Commend [praise] me to my kind lord" before finally saying "O! farewell!" and dying (Lines 120-122).

Othello moves quickly to dispel any notion that he was responsible by asking Emilia who killed Desdemona. When Emilia answers "Alas! who knows?" (Line 124), Othello quickly replies "You heard her [Desdemona] say herself it was not I" (Line 125).

When Emilia says that she must now report the truth, Othello drops his short-lived lie, telling Emilia "She's [Desdemona] like a liar gone to burning hell; / 'Twas I that kill'd her" a line suggesting Othello is proud of the deed of punishing his wife's infidelity (Line 127).

Emilia however knows the truth, saying, "O! the more angel she, / And you the blacker devil " (Desdemona was innocent, you are the evil one), (Line 129).

Othello explains to Emilia that Desdemona was unfaithful to him but Emilia simply criticizes Othello for not believing in his wife. (Lines 130- 131).

Othello in fact says Desdemona was as " false as water" (Line 132) and tells Emilia that her husband knows the truth. Saying that "'twas [it was] he that told me first:", Othello explains that according to Iago, Desdemona betrayed him (Line 146).

Emilia at first cannot believe this.

She courageously tells Othello to "Do thy worst [do your worse]:" before telling Othello that "This deed of thine [yours] is no more worthy [of] heaven / Than thou [you] wast [were] worthy [of] her" by which Emilia means Othello's murder of Desdemona was no less worthy of heaven than he was worthy of her since Emilia knows her friend was innocent and loyal loving wife (Lines 157-158).

Bravely Emilia continues to stand up for Desdemona against Othello before finally shouting "The Moor [Othello] has kill'd [killed] my mistress! Murder! murder!" (Line 165).

This shouting is effective since Montano, Gratiano, Iago and others now enter. Emilia insults her husband for his role in Desdemona's death and slowly the truth comes out (Lines 166-168).

Iago claims only to have told Othello what his honest opinion was but Emilia refuses to let her husband get away with this, forcing Iago to admit that he told Othello that Cassio was sleeping with his wife (Line 175).

At first this does not worry Iago but Emilia's growing contempt for Iago starts to scare him, such that he orders Emilia to leave (Line 192).

Emilia however will not leave without justice. Saying it is her duty to obey her husband, she adds that this time she cannot and tells Iago she will never go home to him again (Lines 193-194).

Othello now falls on the bed crying "O!O!O!" signifying remorse, guilt and possibly that he might now realize what he has done (Line 196).

Gratiano only says that he is glad Desdemona's father Brabantio is dead and cannot see this terrible sight since it would break his heart to see her now (Lines 202-208).

Othello though makes it clear to us that he still believes Iago, he will clutch to this truth since to be wrong would mean he murdered his beautiful, virtuous loving wife for no reason.

He recounts his major the proof now, the handkerchief (Lines 208- 214).

Emilia however will not go away despite Iago's continued urgings. Finally Iago threatens to stab Emilia if she does not go home.

This however puts Iago into disrepute with Gratiano who questions Iago threatening his sword against a woman.

Emilia now protected, tells Othello the truth. Calling him "dull [stupid] Moor!", Emilia explains that she found Desdemona's handkerchief and gave it to Iago since Iago had persistently urged Emilia to steal it for him if she ever had a chance (Lines 222-226).

Hearing this, a scared Iago calls Emilia a "Villanous whore!" but Emilia insists that what she says is true.

Iago now says his wife is lying, keen to protect himself but Emilia again sticks to her guns and assures all present that she is not lying. Additionally she finds time to scold Othello by asking "what should a fool [Othello] / Do with so good a wife [Desdemona]?", (Line 232).

Othello realizing the truth now, runs for Iago but Iago stabs Emilia and escapes, exiting our view...

Knowing she is dead, Emilia asks to be laid by her mistress's (Desdemona) side and Montano, knowing that Iago is evil, tells Gratiano to kill him if he has a chance, since he certainly will (Lines 234-240).

Montano and Gratiano now exit and Othello starts to realize the full weight of what he has done (Lines 241-243).

Emilia remembering Desdemona's willow song, sings it since she wishes to "die in music:-" and she starts singing "Willow, willow, willow" before telling Othello, "Moor [Othello], she was chaste; she lov'd thee [you], cruel Moor;" before finally dying (Line 248).

Realizing he has another sword in his chamber, Othello quickly finds it (Lines 250-253).

Gratiano reappears and Othello explains that his life no longer has meaning, saying "Here is my journey's end," (Line 266) a reference meaning he knows his life is now finished (Lines 258-281).

Lodovico, Montano, Cassio carried in a chair and the prisoner Iago now appear. Othello seizing his opportunity wounds Iago but now Lodovico has Othello's sword removed from him. Iago explains that he bleeds but will not die (Line 187).

Lodovico now expresses dismay that Othello, a man so good has now "Fall'n [fallen] in [into] the practice of a damned slave," (Line 290) and asks what will be said of Othello now?

Othello replies that if anything it was an honorable murder if you will, since as he explains, he did none of it in hate, "but all in honour" (Line 294).

Lodovico, wanting to get to the bottom of all this, quickly learns from Othello that he and Iago did plot Cassio's death and though Iago is defiant and proud of his actions, refusing to say more, Lodovico quickly reveals letters in the slain Roderigo's pocket that reveal Cassio was to be killed by Roderigo (Lines 296-316).

Cassio tells Othello he did nothing to deserve this, Othello asking for Cassio's pardon or forgiveness.

Cassio explains to Othello that he found his wife's handkerchief in his bedchamber and that Iago has confessed that he placed it there for special purpose (to fool Othello of course), (Lines 316-322).

Othello realizing his stupidity, curses himself saying, "O fool! fool! fool!" (Line 322).

Quickly, Lodovico places Cassio in charge of Cypress, telling him he may do with Iago as he sees fit, saying "For this slave, / If there be any cunning cruelty / That can torment him much and hold him long, / It shall be his" (if there is any torture that will both torment him greatly but let him live long, it is his), (Line 332).

Now after making his last wishes clear to Lodovico (Lines 337-354), Othello stabs himself and falling on top of his again beloved wife, dies saying "I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee; no way but this," falling upon Desdemona and finishing with the words, "Killing myself to die upon a kiss" (Line 356).

Cassio explains that he thought Othello had no weapons on him and Lodovico insults the still alive Iago, and tells Gratiano that he now has Othello's assets and places Cassio in charge of Iago.

Lodovico ends the play by stressing the enormity of the task of rebuilding ahead of them, saying, "Myself will straight aboard [abroad], and to the state / This heavy act with heavy heart relate" (I will head off for abroad and will with heavy heart, relate to the state what has sadly happened here).

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